Missouri Cannabis Legalization Dead On Arrival?

Missouri cannabis businesses can thrive under rescheduling.

By: Cecil King        

Missouri Cannabis Legalization Dead On Arrival?

Any future legal cannabis sales in the state of Missouri, either medical or retail, would undoubtedly provide a tremendous economic stimulus as well as bring a technological and scientific renaissance of plant science research to the Show-Me State.

Existing biotech and plant science companies in Missouri are already poised to provide a wealth of scientific talent to develop new cannabis products and medicines.

Missouri’s Governor Jay Nixon wrote in a Missouri Partnership document the state’s “large, turnkey labor pool” has made the state “the top destination for plant science facility development.” Our “low-cost business climate and easy access to research and commercialization facilities” are exactly what plant science companies need to thrive.

Other states across the U.S. have already made the investment in cannabis legalization and are reaping the economic benefits. Cannabis sales nationwide in 2016 are on target to reach $6.7 billion according to analysis produced by New Frontier, a data analytics firm and ArcView, the industry’s established cannabis investment analyst company.

The nation’s cannabis economic picture could accelerate exponentially on November 8, 2016 when the states of California, Arizona, Maine, Nevada and Massachusetts consider cannabis legalization initiatives. Passage of California’s Adult Use of Marijuana Act alone could triple the market overnight.

As states continue to eliminate cannabis prohibition policies, the federal government hasn’t changed its stance. By maintaining cannabis’ Schedule I status the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has defined cannabis as a drug with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.

Uncertainty about federal cannabis policies is being increased by the DEA’s current deliberations to reschedule cannabis.

Downgrading cannabis to a Schedule II would be a welcome, but not a total victory for cannabis activists throughout the U.S. This action would present a new set of concerns. Under Schedule II, marijuana would be in the same class as many legal pharmaceuticals. This designation could bring cannabis under the purview of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Many cannabis business owners fear the FDA could shut down all legal cannabis product sales. The FDA would then subject these products to years of clinical drug testing to ensure product safety at the cost of millions of dollars, funds these small businesses don’t have. Medical cannabis patients would be placed in limbo throughout the U.S.

Fortunately, John Hudak, Senior Fellow, Governance Studies at the non-profit, Washington D.C. based Brookings Institution and his Senior Research Assistant Grace Wallack, have clarified the scheduling conundrum.

Under the present Controlled Substances Act (CSA) marijuana businesses are explicitly outlawed. The reason cannabis enterprises continue to operate is a series of memorandum, the Cole and Obden memos issued by the U.S. Justice Department. “These memos,” offers Hudak, “allow state-approved, heavily regulated operations to exist, so long as they do not violate certain areas of DOJ’s concern, such as selling to minors or engaging with drug cartels.”

The president has issued executive actions under a Supreme Court-approved power of the presidency called enforcement discretion. This allows the president to downgrade the enforcement of the CSA for marijuana under certain conditions.

The DEA can reschedule marijuana anyway they want, but under the current executive action orders, nothing will change with regard to the present cannabis industry practices.

Missouri cannabis businesses are free to start operations unimpeded by DEA scheduling as soon as the Show-Me State’s citizens unlock the economic potential of legal cannabis.