Several news outlets have recently publicized something that The Rodman Law Group has known for some time now: the conservative Koch Political Network, and the Koch Brothers themselves, are showing support for the cannabis industry. While participants in the Green Industry and Koch Industries may seem to share few common interests, they are united in their reproach of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ calls to revamp the “War on the Drugs.” Sessions has previously asked Congress to repeal federal protections for medical cannabis, citing the opioid epidemic currently sweeping the nation.

While it is common knowledge that cannabis has been regulated in some form by the federal government since 1937, few realize that the initial pushback to these polices at the state level also has a long history: tangible efforts to decriminalize cannabis were first seen in Oregon in the 1970s. Various activists, politicians, and groups that ended up with serious funding and real research to back their positions, groups like NORML, MAPS, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), have championed this cause throughout the years. The first major win for cannabis came with the landmark passage of medical cannabis laws in California in 1996. More recently, Colorado and Washington State have led the way for legalized recreational use. In 2012, both states passed ballot initiatives that permitted recreational use, and regulated sales of recreational cannabis began in 2014. Several other states followed suit and it is impossible to deny that the budding cannabis industry has created economic booms across the country.[1]

The Green Industry is showing no signs of slowing down economically, we would argue that it is barely hitting its stride; and thanks to the economic benefits and some much needed fact based education for the general public, increased acceptance of cannabis use is on the rise. It appears that the cannabis industry is here to stay, despite the fact that the substance remains illegal on a federal level. In fact, cannabis is still classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning that according to the federal government, it has no accepted medical use, has a high potential for abuse, and is seen as having no safe use for the drug under medical supervision, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.[2]

Speaking at a three-day conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado over this past weekend, Koch Industries general counsel Mark Holden was firm on his stance, “You are never going to win the war on drugs. Drugs won.”[3] He clarified that he was not looking to legalize all drugs, but that Sessions’ viewpoints represent a “failed big government top-down approach.” He also suggested that the matter should be left to the states.

It is here where we see the overlap of seemingly disparate interests – conservative beliefs, the failed War on Drugs, legalization/decriminalization of cannabis, and the cannabis industry as a whole. It’s clear that the Koch network, which also works to address criminal justice reform, sees that Sessions’ push to restrict cannabis is a futile attempt to kill a burgeoning industry, but it is also a fear-based attempt to respond to, and more importantly, to control, several complex social and public health issues ranging from the opioid epidemic, to crime rates in areas were poverty is rampant (areas that are growing larger in certain parts of the country), to wealth transfer across class and race lines… in other words, issues that have absolutely nothing to do with cannabis.

Financially speaking, the expansion of the cannabis industry, whether from a medical and/or recreational standpoint, is a benefit to communities. Community engagement and strong, responsible implementation of carefully wrought policies can result in safe, legal sale and consumption of cannabis without causing any negative impact to neighborhoods and communities.

Holden is also quoted as saying, “It’s based on fear and emotion in my opinion.” We agree. We remember the fear and uncertainty surrounding the legalization of recreational use in 2012, however the proof, as they say, is in the pudding: the state has seen significant economic growth, a drop in opioid overdoses, and despite a few hiccups, an overall calm transition as the cannabis industry began to grow and sell recreational cannabis. Other states have followed suit, using the models set by both Colorado and Washington. The regulations are strict; the Rodman Law Group can attest to the fact that anyone desiring to participate in the Green Industry faces significant barriers to entry at the regulatory level, and there is almost no room for error (mostly unfairly) and NO room for untoward activity (absolutely necessarily) on the part of cannabis business owners due to the nature of these laws.

Given the fact that despite the evidence disconnecting cannabis consumption from the growing opioid epidemic, as well as the evidence of economic viability of this industry, it is no surprise that Sessions’ attempts to reverse progress are being met with strong opposition, but it’s refreshing to see a corporation that has frequently adopted what could be called the “Jeff Sessions Approach” to issues of national import, taking an unexpected, although wholly rational, stance.

When it comes to business sense, the decriminalization and legalization of cannabis should be an issue left to the states, and the federal government should stop wasting valuable resources trying to fight a losing “war” on a drug that doesn’t cause any actual harm. There are bigger battles to fight, and the government would be far better off expending their energy in a productive manner, rather than the counterproductive cannabis fight they seem to be dead set on pursuing. Koch Industries has recognized this and, for better or for worse, the Green Industry has a new, and very powerful ally.

[1] We have learned that it is impossible to avoid puns like this if you work in, or for, the Green Industry.

[2] Blatant contradictory stances are rampant in this industry: US Patent law requires that a patent be “useful” as one of the four main criteria that must be present in a patent application for a patent to be issued. The federal government holds several patents on/for cannabis.

[3] The Rodman Law Group has a fundamental belief that any war on or against a noun is not winnable, but that is just our opinion.

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