It seems like every day a new cannabis product hits the market—a new CBD cream, vaporizer system or THC beverage. Cannabis has become a dominant emerging market throughout the world, with even historically anti-marijuana Republican leaders, such as Mitch McConnell, warming to legislation like the SAFE Banking Act, which would legitimize cannabis businesses in the U.S.
As the industry becomes increasingly corporate and brings in big players, we must remember the road that got us here. While the fight continues pushing for legitimacy and structure, entrepreneurs in the cannabis space must not forget to fight for fair drug reform policies.
Before building one of Nevada’s preeminent cannabis brands, which received southern Nevada’s first license to open a cultivation facility, I was arrested for growing marijuana in my home. Four years ago, state police raided my house and escorted me out in handcuffs. That night, as my wife called me in jail asking what I was going to do next, I told her flat out, “I’m just getting started. We’re going to fight this thing until the end.” I knew the cannabis plant had medicinal properties beyond what was understood back then.
For the next few years, I used this experience as driving motivation to change a broken system. I learned the mechanics of government to build a company that complied with state regulations, while recruiting a team who recognized the larger value cannabis has for society as a whole. Although I had a favorable resolution, millions of others throughout the United States remain incarcerated for minor drug offenses. There are men and women who have been in prison multiple times for minor drug offenses and have no way out; they are unable to get a job and have no other options to support themselves financially, which results in parole violations and more charges, and the cycle never ends.
Not only is this unjust, given how those serving time smoked a plant over half the country has admitted to using, but it is also economically unfeasible. Since 1971, the War on Drugs has cost the United States $1 trillion. Studies have found that legalizing marijuana alone would save $7 billion per year in averted law enforcement costs, while yielding