By now anyone who follows the burgeoning cannabis industry or legalization movement has heard about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to rescind an Obama-era guidance memo that provided a degree of protection for state-licensed medical and adult-use businesses across the country. My friend and fellow Forbes contributor, Tom Angell, has done an outstanding job chronicling this and its potential implications, and his work is a great place to start for a complete background on this issue.
While much has been written about Sessions’ decision, it’s important to put this news into context and look at what allowed this new industry to flourish in the way that it has over the past decade.
This industry didn’t expand because of a memo issued by a deputy attorney general, or because some governments simply decided they wanted to benefit from the tax revenue that legal cannabis could bring their states. It happened because of the decades of work by marijuana reform activists and policy organizations, without whose efforts today’s businesses could not exist.
Today’s cannabis businesses, whether they realize it or not, are part of a long-standing movement to end cannabis prohibition, a movement that I am proud to have played a small role in advancing earlier in my career. With the industry under renewed attack from drug warriors in Washington, D.C., it is imperative that today’s cannabis business leaders, many who have only known the “good times” under the protection of the Cole Memo, heed the lessons taught by the early pioneers of the industry and recognize their essential role in the broader reform movement. Their very existence as businesses depends on it.
Advocacy roots, advocacy results
Back in 1996 when I got my start in the marijuana-reform movement, there was no such thing