“The amount of money and legal energy given to prosecute Americans with a few ounces of marijuana in their jeans simply makes no sense.”
This may sound like an old quote from a superannuated flower power remnant like Timothy Leary or Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski, but it’s not.
Those words came from the late conservative writer and television personality, William F. Buckley. This was the man who founded National Review magazine, not someone given to progressive advocacy.
Buckley’s observation was made in the early 1970’s — forty years later, most Americans agree with him. A recent Quinnipiac survey found that sixty percent of the country supports legalization of marijuana for adults, while thirty three percent oppose it. The same poll revealed that ninety three percent support the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
Leaving political and social issues aside, sales of legal marijuana in the United States are soaring — more than $10 Billion in 2018. Marijuana related businesses offer employment to 250,000 people. And, significantly, investors are being attracted in large numbers: almost $10 Billion poured into the industry last year, whereas only a total of $5 Billion was raised in the three years previous to that.
Eight years ago, medicinal marijuana was legal in the District of Columbia and in 17 states. Today, thirty three states — subject to controls and operational limitations — permit it.
In 2010, recreational use of pot was illegal — less than a decade later, ten states plus DC, subject to various restrictions, have legalized it.
Cannabidiol, a compound contained in hemp and marijuana, has made even more inroads into the marketplace. Known as CBD, it can be found in drinks, creams, even elixirs for your dog (hemp treats!).
CBD is one of the more than 100 chemical compounds found in cannabis — CBD does not cause a high, THC is the psychoactive player which does.
It is being claimed, with much sound and fury, that products containing CBD, not THC, have a myriad of health benefits. Pain reduction, calming anxiety, lessening depression and even cancer symptom relief have all been attributed to the felicitous nature of CBD.
Is it true?
Truth and marketing are often incongruent, or at least murky – to paraphrase William Shakespeare’s John Falstaff, “Honor, who hath honor? He died Wednesday.”
But sales facts are true and those facts indicate that American consumers are putting their money on CBD.
Last year, retail sales of products that featured cannabidiol hit $2 Billion. It is estimated that in the next five years, that figure could reach $16 Billion.
The list of retailers who sell CBD products is long and sprinkled liberally with high end names: Barney’s in Beverly Hills is selling CBD laced creams; five Neiman Marcus locations stock CBD beauty products; at the highly regarded Malibu Pokey restaurants in Dallas and Austin, Texas it is served as a liquid refreshment; Martha Stewart is working with a Canadian company to develop CBD lotions; in some 800 stores, CVS is hooking up with the compound.
The legality of CBD is in a limbo which is sorting itself out over time — the FDA is now operating in a dynamic legal environment where norms fluctuate unpredictably.
“We encourage the FDA to move as quickly as possible to bring this important industry out of the shadows,” Erica McBride Stark of the National Hemp Association said recently.
Indeed, the march toward marijuana legalization and the stampede to buy CBD has raised issues for local, state and federal entities.
As one Colorado official proclaimed, “legalization was hard, regulation even harder.”
Striking the balance between moderate (wink, wink) enforcement and extreme “regulation whiplash” has been challenging. Cannabis has mostly been treated like the beverage industry: monitoring production, sales, and distribution with gradually evolving standards.
Government concerns are similar in both cases — setting appropriate age limits, developing guidelines for secure manufacturing and insuring that the public is fully informed about product use.
Research about the impact marijuana has on personal health is a contradictory mixed bag: smoking can’t be good for anyone’s lungs, and it certainly impairs judgement and coordination. One study found that vehicle accidents have risen three percent in states where the drug was legalized.
But causality is an issue with most research; in fatal accidents, for example, other drugs or alcohol are often involved.
In order for marijuana to kill a person, it has been calculated that the person would have to ingest 1500 pounds of the substance in 15 minutes. A recent survey of deathcare statistics indicates that not a single passing was caused my marijuana usage alone.
Looking at all the ramifications of the legalization of marijuana and its byproducts, the late newsman, David Brinkley, might say: “There’s more to learn about this developing story.”