A group representing cannabis businesses and activists is calling on the governors of four western states to explore receiving federal approval for interstate trade in cannabis, a move that could help set the stage for the eventual national legalization of cannabis.
In a letter posted online, the Alliance for Sensible Markets called on the governors of California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington to seek guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice on how the government would react if two or more states with legal medical or adult-use marijuana decided to regulate cannabis trade across their state lines. The letter notes that federal legalization of cannabis, which at this point seems inevitable, will present an economic opportunity to cannabis-producing states in the West.
“When the federal government legalizes cannabis, the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution guarantees that producers across our four states will have non-discriminatory access to every legal adult-use and medical market in the country,” the letter reads. “That will be worth billions of dollars per year to our states’ economies, increasing state revenues and spurring investment, expansion, business formation, and jobs and could, if it happens soon, save thousands of small farms and businesses from extinction.”
The Alliance for Sensible Markets is a Portland, Oregon-based coalition of cannabis activists and producers including the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the Washington Sun and Craft Growers Association, the Weed for Warriors Project, and the Colorado Cannabis Manufacturers Association. Formed last year, the organization has two primary goals to achieve interstate cannabis commerce.
First, the group is working to bring two or more states with legal marijuana together to join in an interstate compact outlining the parameters for legal cannabis commerce between them. Secondly, a path to federal approval of the plan would have to be drafted and set into motion.
Interstate Commerce to Set the Stage for a National Cannabis Industry
Paired with a federal policy that would permit state-legal cannabis businesses to operate without interference, interstate cannabis commerce could be a more politically viable path to many of the goals of full legalization. Adam Smith, the founder and president of the Alliance for Sensible Markets, believes that interstate commerce in cannabis can connect consumers in newly legal markets with western cannabis producers, who have recently seen wholesale prices plummet.
“Thousands of small farms and businesses across the Pacific Northwest, in communities that have depended on the economics of cannabis for generations, face economic catastrophe as they choke on a glut of some of the world’s best and most efficiently produced cannabis,” Smith wrote in an email to High Times. “This is not an oversupply problem, it’s a market access problem. Meanwhile, millions of patients and consumers in legal states where cannabis is expensive and environmentally costly to grow will be stuck in illicit markets for years, and thousands of potential retail, distribution, delivery and other businesses will be stuck on the sidelines waiting for a steady but limited and overpriced supply chain to emerge in their states.”
The group maintains that the current system of regulated cannabis trade, with each state that has legalized marijuana operating its own contained market of production, manufacturing, distribution and sales, is unsustainable. By seeking guidance from the federal government now instead of waiting for national legalization, the coalition hopes to create a more sustainable cannabis industry that better serves the needs of all stakeholders.
“We believe that the simple act of asking the question will significantly advance the national conversation around the future of legal cannabis, and that positive guidance from DOJ will spur changes beneficial to both producer and consumer states, as well as to patients, consumers, public safety, social equity, small businesses and environmental sustainability in any legal or medical states that choose to regulate and engage in commerce in advance of federal legalization,” the letter concludes.
Smith says that California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, four states that were early pioneers in the cannabis legalization movement, are uniquely positioned to help shape national policy with federal regulators.
“Federal Legalization will open markets, but waiting for the federal government to ‘fix’ cannabis has never been a winning strategy,” Smith explained. “It has always been the states taking the lead on reform. Positive DOJ guidance will open the path to a more rational, just, and sustainable industry now, in states that choose to participate in commerce.”
The Alliance for Sensible Markets is currently encouraging additional cannabis consumers, businesses, and other interested parties to sign the letter and plan to deliver it to the four western governors next month.