by Roger Stone
As a libertarian-oriented conservative, I have supported the Federal legalization of cannabis for more than thirty years. Watching the dramatic shift in public opinion regarding the medicinal use of marijuana and its subsequent legalization in more than half of the states, as well as advancing federal legislation for full, so-called “recreational” legalization, is not only a fascinating glimpse at our democracy but has also raised a series of shocking factors that complicate public access to cannabis even today.
Some years ago after I gave a very successful pro-cannabis legalization speech at a conference in New York City, I was scheduled to speak at a conference in Los Angeles sponsored by the same pro-marijuana organization. Liberal outrage and a demand that I not be allowed to speak exposed the fact that some demented souls think they “own” the Cannabis Movement and that one must agree with them on all other political issues, as well as cannabis, in order to be pro-pot.
Those very same critics seem oblivious to the fact that for 20 years I urged Donald Trump to take a state’s rights position on the entire issue of cannabis legalization. Let me remind you that President Barack Obama, during the time Democrats controlled Congress, did nothing toward either the legalization of marijuana or the desperately needed reforms of our criminal justice system with particular focus on the racist drug-sentencing laws that existed then (and continue to exist). It was not until the presidency of Donald J. Trump, through the First Step Act and the Second Chance Act, that the Country accomplished meaningful criminal justice reform.
My critics were quick to point out my well-known association with former President Richard Nixon, under whose presidency the “War on Drugs” was launched. They fail to mention that in two books I have written on Nixon, as well as multiple interviews and articles, I have sharply criticized the 37th President. I also pointed out that while it is true that the “War on Drugs” was launched under Nixon; it was Senate Judiciary Chairman Joe Biden and President Bill Clinton who added the harsh mandatory penalties for nonviolent first-time offenders for possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use, that is responsible for the mass incarceration for more Black people than any other law in history.
The great drug crisis in America today has nothing to do with cannabis. Big Pharma has cashed in with addictive opioids that have filled the void created by the unavailability of cannabis, a far less expensive, more effective, and safer form of medicine for those in chronic pain. Yet, in a strange way, the opioid epidemic in America has hastened the legalization of cannabis in the states as more and more Americans recognize it as the safer alternative to opioids.
Despite many disappointing trends and developments in the continuing legalization and regulation of cannabis, I continue to support the cause of cannabis legalization, but I also argue for a free-market-oriented regulatory scheme — that is to say, as little regulation as possible. It goes without saying that even with modest tax rates, cannabis can generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues for cash-starved states.
If Republicans in the U.S. House had any brains (they don’t), they would quickly move current Republican-sponsored legislation to legalize cannabis so that the issue is not on the ballot in any state in 2022 or 2024, to pull out younger and more casual voters who are far less likely to vote Republican.
In my home state of Florida, despite a dramatic shift in public support for medicinal marijuana, timid Republican state legislators declined to either legalize the medicinal use of cannabis or to put it on the ballot for voters to decide via constitutional amendment. It is only because of the courage and fortitude of Florida trial lawyer John Morgan, who had the persistence to ultimately put on the ballot and legalize medicinal marijuana in his second attempt at amending the Florida State constitution.
What happened next is even more vexing. Republicans in the state legislature, still bitter over legalization by the voters, put in place an extraordinarily narrow mechanism for the institution of the state’s medicinal marijuana program—making access to medicinal marijuana expensive, slow, cumbersome, as well as limiting it to a very narrow list of specific diseases.
Florida Republicans actually prohibited the smoking of medicinal marijuana, limiting public access only to expensive vapes and edibles. To his credit, John Morgan challenged this obvious attempt to neuter the constitutional amendment in court and won.
The other unforeseen result of legalization in the Sunshine State was the repositioning of all of the various large powerful and influential special interests, who had repeatedly opposed legalization and funded the campaigns against it to be first in line for the extremely valuable grow-permits and dispensary licenses.
Governor Ron DeSantis opposed the legalization of medicinal marijuana while running for Governor, quickly shifting his position to being pro-cannabis legalization after the election, but ultimately supporting an implementation plan which actually makes medicinal marijuana expensive and difficult to get, and the quality (in term of its healing qualities) is extremely limited.
Overregulation (and hidden animus among Florida House Republicans) has made Florida’s medicinal marijuana program so difficult, expensive, and ineffective that the black market continues to flourish in the State of Florida.
California is another state where overregulation has destroyed the legal cannabis industry. Overregulation has killed off the California cannabis industry. The Golden State lost well over 30,000 cannabis-related jobs as a result of high taxes and regulations.
At the same time, Oklahoma has legalized cannabis with little regulation and zero enforcement, and the industry in the Sooner State has flourished in terms of tax revenues, revenues, and job creation.
California, once the leading cannabis market in the world, has now lost its place to Oklahoma which practically enforces zero regulations, as Oklahomans can grow one-hundred acres and more within the state.
Today in California, prices have doubled because of high tax and suffocating regulations. To avoid taxes which causes license holders to lose money and go out of business, Californians have opted to either grow their own cannabis or arrange to get it from friends who already have it.
In essence, Oklahoma took over the black market which, in turn, took $40 billion a year out of California. Evidently, this was executed intentionally as a new form of prohibition.
The other startling development is the “corporatization” of the entire legal cannabis industry. Those activists and small and medium-size farmers who supported the legalization of cannabis over the last thirty years have been astonished at the way the economic opportunity created through the legalization of both medicinal and recreational marijuana has been increasingly seized by those already wealthy corporations and special interests. These interests not only played no role in legalization but actually opposed the very event that is now making them millions.
The “Mom and Pop” farmer or cannabis entrepreneur has little chance in the competition for limited licenses controlled by state political interests eager for massive campaign contributions.
I am probably more acutely aware of all of these developments because of the enormous benefit my wife of 30 years, Nydia, has received from specially formulated THC and CBD therapies she is using in her current battle with stage 4 cancer.
Based on my extensive research and now my personal experience, cannabis is a powerful anti-cancer agent which can play a vital role in the eradication of cancer from the human body. This is yet another reason why my commitment to the legalization of cannabis persists.