California’s “Marijuana Revolution” (and $5 Billion Industry), and Cory Booker Does the Right Thing

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

I was going to do survey of the new California marijuana law, at least partly to educate myself on the public policy aspects of what looks like a very big deal, but I ended up tossing all my research, because to my embarassment and horror there turned out to be a Vox explainer that covers the basics just fine. Hitting the high points from Vox. Their policy judgment is in the headline:

California’s new legal marijuana market marks the beginning of the end for prohibition

This all goes back to California’s successful 2016 ballot initiative, in which 57 percent of the state’s voters elected to fully legalize marijuana.

At that point, California became by far the biggest state to legalize pot. Until Election Day 2016, only four relatively small states had done so: Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. Altogether, these states hold more than 17 million people, and their cumulative annual economic value totals around $1 trillion. In comparison, California alone is home to more than 39 million people and is worth around $2.5 trillion — more than twice as populous and wealthy as all the previous legal pot states combined.

So, after twenty years of medical marijuana, California gets recreational marijuana. Ka-ching:

[S]ize matters. While the previous legal pot states had relatively small economies and, therefore, relatively small marijuana industries, California is a behemoth. GreenWave Advisors, a cannabis financial analyst, estimated that California’s industry could be worth $5.1 billion in 2018. One report from researchers at the investment bank Cowen estimated that legalization in California alone would triple the size of the nation’s legal pot industry within a decade.

Which is enough to get the oligarchy’s attention, and in a good way for the industry. (To be fair, California is a liberal Democrat one-party state, so we naturally get complex regulation; 3 agencies and 19 types of permits, apparently; but at least they didn’t privatize it all.) So now we get Jack in The Box selling a “Merry Munchie Meal” (wait for it) $4.20. And now doubt much else, including opportunity for unions to organize:

Labor leaders estimate recreational pot in California could employ at least 100,000 workers from the north coast to the Sierra Nevada foothills and the San Joaquin Valley, harvesting and trimming the plants, extracting ingredients to put in liquids and edibles, and driving it to stores and front doors.

The United Farm Workers, Teamsters and United Food and Commercial Workers are looking to unionize the tens of thousands of potential workers involved in the legal weed game, from planters to rollers to sellers. The move could provide a boost to organized labor’s lagging membership — if infighting doesn’t get in the way.

Presumably, the unions can sort out the jurisdictional issues. At least that is what the strongest of the three them says:

Teamsters organizer Kristin Heidelbach said there’s no need for unions to battle each other. There will be plenty of workers needing representation as small cannabis businesses run by “happy stoner” types give way to large pharmaceutical corporations, she said.

I hope Heidelbach will forgive me if I don’t find a vision of marijuana cultivation run by Big Pharma all that reassuring; my vision is exactly of “happy stoners,” since marijuana is a weed, and I ought to able to grow it in my own garden. Fortunately, in California (as in Maine) you can do that, kinda:

[G]rowing plants in your house is the easiest way to make sure you abide by regulations requiring that home cultivation be done in a ‘fully enclosed and secure’ way. This bit comes from concerns about plants enticing robbers if people are ‘flaunting that they have a valuable product,’ says Reiman. A household — no matter how many people are in it — is limited to growing six plants at one time. For people in rural areas, it might be easy enough to set up a greenhouse outside in a remote location. People in denser places may have a harder time keeping outdoor plants ‘out of plain sight.’

Six plants, however, seems like more than enoough, and I’m sure big box home and garden centers will end up stocking some sort of “fully enclosed and secure” solution.

With California out of the way, let me turn to what has accidentally turned out to be the real subject of this post. As readers know, marijuana is still illegal at the Federal level, which leads to nonsense like this, from Bloomberg:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is rescinding an Obama-era policy that helped states legalize recreational marijuana, throwing a wet blanket on the fledgling industry during what should have been a celebratory week. Shares of pot companies plunged.

The Justice Department will reverse the so-called Cole and Ogden memos that set out guardrails for federal prosecution of cannabis and allowed legalized marijuana to flourish in states across the U.S., according to two senior agency officials. U.S. attorneys in states where pot is legal will now be able prosecute cases where they see fit, according to the officials, who requested anonymity discussing internal policy.

Over time, I would expect Big Pharma (see above) to take care of this matter via K Street, as usual. And what is Sessions going to do? Arrest every Stoner in California? (To be fair, Obama relaxed marijuana enforcement, but his DEA still kept it, along with heroin, on Schedule 1. So we have yet another instance of Obama doing by regulation or rule what is equally easy for another administration to undo by regulation or rule.)

On this issue, Cory Booker has done the right thing. Let me repeat that: Cory Booker has done the right thing. He has introduced bill legalizing marijuana at the Federal level. I know I’ve beaten up on Booker in the past, and he’s certainly deserved it — how on earth does a putatively progressive Democrat actually maneuver themselves to Obama’s right on private equity? I’m still steaming! — but when Booker does the right thing, he should get credit for it, which in this case I’m happy to give. The bill is “S.1689 – Marijuana Justice Act of 2017,” and shamefully — shamefully — only one Democrat (Ron Wyden) co-sponsored it with him (even though Sanders introduced legislation to legalize marijuana in 2015)[1].

There are four aspects to Booker’s bill. First, it would remove marijuana (or “marihuana,” as the statutes have it) from the DEA’s list of Schedule 1 drugs. The Los Angeles Times:

The Marijuana Justice Act would remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances, which would make it legal under federal law. Marijuana is currently listed as a Schedule 1 drug along with heroin and LSD, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical value. (Tell that to the 29 states that allow the use of medical marijuana.)

Second, Booker’s bill opens the door to retroactively decriminalizing marijuana convictions. Fortune:

The proposed legislation would be retroactive, as it would expunge previous federal marijuana use and possession crimes from people’s records while allowing those currently imprisoned for marijuana-related offenses to apply for resentencing.

Because it’s ridiculous to have the people who built the industry — and yes, that is what they did — rotting in jail, while MBA’s in suits rake in the bucks for their oligarchical masters now that the industry has been made legal[2]. (And expunging convictions has the benefit of making it easier for those unjustly jailed to get work, and also means they can vote, in states that deny felons the vote[3].)

Third, Booker’s bill incentivizes states to legalize marijuana and to stop disproportionately arresting black people. Politico:

[The bill would] withhold federal money for building jails and prisons, along with other funds, from states whose cannabis laws are shown to disproportionately incarcerate minorities. Those “aggrieved” by a disproportionate arrest or imprisonment rate would be able to sue, according to the bill.

(For some, slowing down jail and prison construction is weak tea, but it does hit the states in the wallet, where it counts.) And yes, this is a problem, as WaPo reports:

As you’re probably aware, black Americans are arrested for marijuana possession far more frequently than whites. You may also know that there’s not much evidence that black people consume marijuana with greater regularity than whites do.

Here’s the handy table on arrest rates:

I mean, come on.

Fourth, Booker’s Bill sets up a “Community Reinvestment Fund.” From the text:

(c) Use Of Fund Amounts.—Amounts in the Fund shall be available to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to establish a grant program to reinvest in communities most affected by the war on drugs, which shall include providing grants to impacted communities for programs such as—

(1) job training;

(2) reentry services;

(3) expenses related to the expungement of convictions;

(4) public libraries;

(5) community centers;

(6) programs and opportunities dedicated to youth;

(7) the special purpose fund discussed below; and

(8) health education programs.

Booker doesn’t use the charged word “reparations,” but looking again at that table of arrest rates, I think a make-good is in order.


Legalizing marijuana is popular, albeit with caveats. Vox:

[N]ationwide support for marijuana legalization keeps growing. Gallup’s latest survey in 2017 found that 64 percent of US adults back legalization, up from 36 percent more than a decade before. Gallup even found that a majority of Republicans now support legalization. (One caveat: Anti-legalization advocates argue that if surveys offered options between decriminalization, medical legalization, and recreational legalization, voters would be much less likely to say that they back full legalization.)

Booker’s bill is a good bill. Marijuana should be legal. Those arrested for it should have their records expunged. States that criminalize marijuana but enforce the laws unequally should pay a price, and people should be able to sue them for it. And the communities destroyed by the so-called “War on Drugs” should be given the resources to rebuild. And you’d think the Democrats would want to appeal to 64% of the population by backing both legalization and decriminalization. But no. Perhaps they feel that suburban Republicans wouldn’t like that?


[1] The Los Angeles Times: “Booker isn’t the first lawmaker to call for erasing marijuana from the list of controlled substances. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced a bill to do that in 2015. Earlier this year Reps. Tom Garrett (R-Va.) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) proposed it with a measure called the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act. So did Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) with his Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. All of those measures would let states decide whether they want to legalize or not.” Only Sanders, as a Senator, could co-sponsor Booker’s bill. I would think that as a simple matter of comity, he would.

[2] Pecksniff me no pecksniffs on the rule of law, after the executives who committed accounting control fraud in the Crash were given impunity by Obama’s Justice Department.

[3] So, a canny political move as well, one which the otherwise horrid Terry McAuliffe also made.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Jonathan Holland Becnel

    My General Discharge from the Army resulted from a failed Urinalysis due to Elevated amounts of THC


    TBH this bill would be great for me since the Army Review Board is at the Federal level.

    Might even get my GI Bill eligibility back!


    1. Oregoncharles

      So we have a Republican setting up a major states’-rights confrontation, with the biggest state. Among other things, this should give the independence initiative quite a boost.

      All the legalization states should start promoting jury nullification. that should make it impossible to get a conviction – it only takes one, if they have the nerve.

        1. Randall Stephens

          Jury nullification? What a quaint notion. (The same can be said for any belief that citizens are entitled to a jury trial, the constitution be damned)

          The majority of criminal cases are resolved with a plea agreement. There is no formal prosecution, and no jury trial.

          In cases that do go to jury trial nullification is unlikely in the extreme to have any effect. In the US there has been progression of attitudes by courts/judges, with the current attitude eliminating any application of nullification by juries altogether.

          1) In the late 19th century courts/judges determined they were under no obligation to inform juries of their nullification powers.
          2) Courts/judges began to penalize anyone that attempted to inform juries of their nullification powers.
          3) In the mid 1980’s case law developed regarding jury instructions that went further and stated “There is no such thing as valid jury nullification.” That case law, and its import, have only gained momentum, and strength, since.

          In civil cases there are myriad ways to keep a case from going to a jury trial. Probably the most frequent is to hold a bench trial instead. If the court/judge, or one of the parties, wants to avoid a jury trial a motion for bench trial can be made. That is an obstacle to a jury trial that must be overcome in order to be “awarded” a jury trial.

          Before any trial there are numerous ways to be distanced from a jury trial.

          Motions to dismiss.
          Motions for judgment on the pleadings.
          Motions for summary judgment.
          Motions for a directed verdict.

          In the unlikely event a civil litigant is able to jump through all the procedural hoops, dodge all the bullets fired by adverse parties (and the courts), and actually get to, and through, a jury trial, the loosing party can file a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. The court/judge can then, in short, simply replace his/her own judgment in place of the jury.

          Folks in the US have a lot of ideas about what due process, and justice, are … what they look like, and what they entail, but mostly those ideas are NOT the reality.

  2. Fishhead

    You think pot is big money? Or, this is how the republicans stay in power.

    Federal criminal conviction of users, growers, distributors, and investors.
    1. Can’t vote
    2. Asset forfeiture
    3. Private prisons

  3. Scott

    The final frontier of marijuana legalization is how doctors will approve it for use by private & commercial pilots.
    In my life I was able to do all the experiments with both marijuana smoked & hashish & hash oil. Hashish was what was preferred in Canada when I lived there in Rochdale College & was hired to work on Security.
    (My paper there was Ghetto News.) Hey, I’m Beat & a warrior poet.)
    My experiments indicate that 24 hours from joint to joystick will be fine for pilots when the pot has been smoked. A high is typically done after 6 hours from smoking the evil weed.
    Far as when one may eat a gram of hashish chewing well, you ought not be piloting a plane for three days. (Tastes like dirt.)
    Federal Legalization is absolutely necessary.
    Ironic to read of the Teamsters all over the idea of unionizing the pot industry labor. It was their decision to use mob muscle instead of doing the dirty work all on their own that sold out labor in the 20th Century. I’d be reticent in recommending pot labor join the Teamsters if this is more of the mob in disguise.
    Any Pot legalization bill that does not address Pilots, Train Engineers, Truckers, or even race car drivers is flawed as incomplete in my judgement.

    1. willem

      Nuclear plant workers granted (unescorted) access to the power block are also prohibited by Federal regulation from using, and are subject to random urinalysis. How well will Joe Public sleep at night knowing that the people operating their nuclear plants and flying their commercial airliners might be under the influence? It’s much harder to test for this than it is to test for recent alcohol consumption, since it shows up in your blood for weeks after only a single use.

      I personally think legalization of all these substances is a great idea for so many reasons, but with one proviso. There needs to be a real “sea change” in attitudes about substance abuse, to the effect that one is always fully responsible for one’s actions, even if under the influence, since it was a personal choice to ingest such substances. For example: Killing someone accidentally while driving because one is “too drunk (stoned?) to know what one is doing” is depraved indifference for human life.

  4. Stagamancer

    shamefully — shamefully — there are no Democrats who have co-sponsored it with him

    Am I reading this wrong? It looks like Wyden cosponsored Booker’s bill in December.

  5. Bobby Gladd

    Ignorant “good-people-don’t-use-marijuana” Keebler Elf AG Jeff Sessions announced that he intends to enforce federal anti-pot law in the legalizing states. Should be interesting. He’s even dragged out Reagan’s mendacious crackpot “Drug Czar” Robert L. DuPont, who advocates requiring physicians to routinely test their patients for illegal drug use as part of “normal primary care.” Those who test positive would be forcibly remanded to “rehab.”

    Not making that up.

    1. Darius

      Do you think Sessions is motivated by the fact that black people are far more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses than white people?

      1. Bobby Gladd

        Perhaps. Most charitably, I chalk it up to plain old stupidity and willful ignorance. In the world of these types, the only “drug abuse experts” are those who’ve never done any.

  6. Adrienne

    Pot prohibition has never been about “the weed.” It’s simply a handy tool for arbitrarily detaining people and ruining their lives, particularly young men of color.

    No one really believes that cannabis is as dangerous as heroin or acid. But it’s frightfully easy to bust someone for a fragment of plant material. Once arrested, plea bargaining can net many more undesirables and ruin their lives too.

    Prohibition of cannabis is 99.9% about controling, punishing, and profiting off marginalized communities.

      1. Fastball


        But it’s because he hopes to be President in 2021. And I’m guessing Cory knows where the heat on the street is going to come from. This is a boneheaded maneuver on Sessions’ part.

        1. Michael Fiorillo

          Booker deserves praise for submitting this bill, and also to have you vote against him if he runs for office in your vicinity.

      2. dk

        Usually, DC grinds them down. Or sideways, see Warren. Is Booker getting free passes to groom him and the deplorable progressive left-like? Stay tuned.

        I lived in Hoboken, down the street from Newark, as Booker entered his second mayoral term there. It was largely thought on the street that the formerly inspiring young star had been utterly compromised by the big real estate developers. I thought he was going to be a straight party Dem from there on out.

        He still flips between libertarian and neo/paleo liberal and yes-thats-actually-progressive on what seems like a monthly basis. He remains interesting, I don’t know for what though.

        And ya know… after Trump, maybe we should seriously consider a chameleon. Have a kind of political round-robin of satisfaction/dissatisfaction, everybody gets a turn.

        Or is that what Booker wants us to think?!?!?

          1. Michael Fiorillo

            If you want to see the real Booker, look at how he helped privatize the public schools in Newark, as part of a coalition that included Governor Christie, Mark Zuckerberg and the opportunistic so-called reformers who are feeding off the carcass of the Newark public school system.

            His proposing this legislation is a good thing, but as a public school teacher, I still wouldn’t piss on him if his heart were on fire.

      3. Skip Intro

        I was a bit surprised that you didn’t draw a more explicit connection between Cory’s bill and the wishes of his owners in Big Pharma…

        Seen cynically, the ‘reversal of drug war harm’ elements of the bill are woke virtue signals added as bargaining chips to be cashed in as needed.

        ‘No matter how cynical I get, I just can’t keep up’ – Lily Tomlin

        1. Daws

          Dont let that sour note spoil the song. Mj arrests have fallen far and fast in WA and CO. Thousands of jobs have been created in retail, production, and distribution, just in time for minimum wage increases in WA, CA, OR, including large gains in SEA, PDX, SF, LA

  7. Wukchumni

    For me, the main victory in legalization in California was the hope we’d get rid of Mexican drug trafficking organizations that grow it way off-trail in National Parks, BLM & Forest Service land. It wouldn’t make much sense to do so once legal. How it plays out will be interesting, to say the least…

    I can buy a 35 pound box of navel oranges here for $10, and 35 pounds of marijuana is worth $70,000.

    I’m curious to see what farmers/orchardists do, will it be a “Great Leap Forward” gig where everybody and their brother produces way too much and prices plummet, which isn’t a bad outcome, really.

    1. Lee

      IIRC (from reading, not experience), the price of alcoholic beverages dropped 70% after prohibition was repealed. If the risk premium for weed is about the same, it leaves a lot of room for producing public revenues and union benefits and would still bring down the retail price. We grow our own here in the sf bay area and recommend doing the same to all who can. If you can grow tomatoes, you can grow weed. Have you ever encountered any of these National Forest grow sites. I’ve heard the folks that run them can be quite dangerous; not to mention phking up the environment.

      1. Wukchumni

        The cartel typically employs campesinos from Michoacán who are a few layers removed from anybody that knows anything about the operation, and they’re the ones that get busted. Really just innocent farmer types recruited to make some do re mi. It’s frustrating to arrest them, a narc friend told me, as they know nothing. Deliveries of food, fertilizer, gas & painted ladies etc. to their campsites are usually local Central Valley types, Cutler, Orosi, and Earlimart provide most of them, around these parts.

        1. WJ

          I did read a factoid a few years back (I don’t have the link but I am sure it is out there) stating that the sale of marijuana still made up as much as 75% of the major cartels’ annual profits. If this figure has not changed dramatically in the ensuing years, then it is possible that Booker’s law would do more to lessen drug related violent crime than every bust made by the DEA over the past however-many decades.

          1. Wukchumni

            There haven’t been any shooting incidents involving the
            cartel gardens or anything tied to it in the NP and surrounding areas up and down the length of the Sierra foothills ever as far as I know. My friend did a flyover of Squaw Valley (the Hwy 180 on the way to Kings Canyon one) a few years ago and told me it was teeming with illegal grows, a few miles back from town, for instance. And the Sierra foothills go a few hundred miles south to north in length

            I think the cartel realizes if they keep it on the downlow, and if you lose a couple gardens with 5 peons here and 6 in the other, oh well, 3 other gardens with 56,834 plants were harvested, when all is said and done. And like their countrymen diligently tending the many flocks of tree orchards on the fruited plain below, they’ve got the greenest of thumbs, an affinity with the earth.

            A shooting would cause us to get uppity with a lot more helo flyovers, etc. MJ sticks out like a sore thumb being about the only really green growing thing during that time of year in late summer, unless cleverly camouflaged, which they’re also adept at.

            Our weakness is the cost of doing this. The helo time is a pretty penny, the essentially special service interdiction teams have to be specially trained, covered with body armor, they might be toting 40 pounds including weaponry, etc. and it’ll be 80-100 degrees walking @ 2-5k altitude lower climes.

            The cartel spends pennies versus us blowing through Benjamins fighting it, in getting the supply to the demand.

    2. Skip Intro

      Over 2 decades ago, I determined that retail-level per-gram prices for high-quality cannabis indica were the about same in Amsterdam and San Francisco. I concluded that law enforcement had a negligible effect on the market, though my conclusion did not consider

      1) Amsterdam black market prices
      2) The fees, taxes, regulatory impacts on Amsterdam ‘coffeeshop’ prices
      3) The vast variety of quality-controlled offerings in Amsterdam as opposed to the more seasonally constrained SF market.

    3. Eureka Springs

      An old friend who now lives in Oregon managing a large operation on a 60k yearly salary says he expects 2018 crop to fetch 500 per lb. wholesale. So your locals 70k (which is probably half of what it was 5 years ago) now competes with 17.5.

  8. Adrienne

    Six plants is a lot for recreational users, but for heavy medical users it is not nearly enough: considering the need for continuous cropping from clone to mature plant, you’ve got to have a lot of baby plants in the pipeline for later maturity. The cost for a “fully enclosed” (basically, an indoor grow) is prohibitive for low-income people, so once again, disabled people who rely upon cannabis as medicine will get screwed.

    It won’t take long for Monsanto to get into the act and try to patent a 10,000 year old cultivated weed…

    So while this is a step in the right direction, the new law will tend to favor people with more resources who can afford to buy as much as they want, or set up an expensive indoor grow.

    The only long-term solution is to legalize it fully and allow outdoor home grows with no restrictions. This will crater the price, of course, and make cannabis only slightly more valuable than fresh basil…not what Big Weed or Big Pharma want, so we’ll likely not see this anytime soon.

    1. Wukchumni

      Pot marjoram is worth a few bucks an ounce, and if pot were to drop down to that level nobody would grow it, but somewhere around $25-50 an ounce would be schweet.

  9. DonCoyote

    Well good for Cory “no unsafe generics from Canada!” Booker. I didn’t think he had it in him.

    I’m sure most NC are already aware, but

    1) We already have cannabinoids in our body (endocannabinoids), so Jeff needs to arrest every Murican for drug use;
    2) Marijuana as a schedule one drug (no accepted medical value) is the most ridiculous travesty of a mockery of a sham ever. Even if you think people “shouldn’t get high”, let’s review the bidding on Cannabidiol, CBD: (CBD is another component of marijuana besides THC, the stuff that gets you high and they test your urine for)

    Anti-depressant: It combats anxiety and depression.
    Anti-convulsant: It suppresses seizure activity.
    Anti-oxidant: It fights neuro-degenerative disorders.
    Anti-psychotic: It combats psychosis.
    Neuro-protective: It protects the neurons in the brain.
    Anti-emetic: It reduces nausea and vomiting.
    Anti-inflammatory: It combats inflammation and also the pain.
    Anti-tumoral: It combats tumor and cancer cells.
    Not only CBD is non-psychoactive, but research has shown that it is non-toxic and there is no risk of lethal overdose.
    A 2011 review on the safety and side-effects of CBD managed to show that large doses had no effects on embryonic development, digestion, food intake, motor activity, movement, blood pressure, body temperature and heart rate.

    Yeah, no accepted medical value there. Heck, we should be adding it to breakfast cereal and tap water.

    1. beth

      Cory Booker is from the state with the most pharmaceutical companies. And you thought Booker was doing it for all the poor black kids. No, he is a leader in crafting any new law in favor of Big Pharma. Ka-ching.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        In politics, sadly, it’s possible to do the right thing with the wrong motives. I think the decriminalization part of Booker’s bill is important and just. And it’s hard for me to see the direct benefit to Big Pharma in doing it.

        1. Michael Fiorillo

          One possible scenario: Pharma gets what it wants, thanks to its wholly-owned subsidiary Cory Booker, while the decriminalization section gets stricken, with nary a peep from the junior senator from New Jersey, who then continues to get the liberal adulation and credulous news coverage he’s enjoyed his entire career.

          The “right” of the police to humiliate, beat, jail or kill anyone shall not be abridged.

    2. Figaro

      Shouldn’t we want Sessions to crack down on weed so in the resulting lawsuit Sessions would have to prove schedule 1 was warranted? That would be a hard sell and if we won would be a hard precedent to overturn. Waiting for congress to act seems unrealistic due to their age demographic despite Bookers attempts. He knows that and this is naked pandering. I give him credit but this was a no brainier for him.

  10. dk

    On visits to Denver area last an prior year, and hearing from residents, there was gloom, then desperation. The influx of eager well-off potheads had shot real estate and rental prices well beyond prior averages, and beyond many working/precariat budgets. Last word was things are getting worse as pot prices tumble; anecdote≠data, but it can be fact.

    Here’s another caveat, speculative but not incredible… yes yes, Motley Fool, hear them out.

    Marijuana Prices Are Plunging in Colorado, and That Could Be Bad News
    Falling prices are usually good for consumers, but the possible reason behind this drop in pot prices is a double-edged sword for investors and consumers.

    For those who may not recall, Colorado extended a moratorium on growing license issuances last year, which allowed those who’d already acquired a license to maintain control. This is especially true given that these grow licenses had no limits on the number of plants that could be cultivated on a grow farm. Additionally, nothing stopped big business from gobbling up as many licenses as they could afford in Colorado. The result is that just a few larger players wound up with a majority stake of the Colorado grow market.

    Now, if you’re a big business and you want to eliminate your smaller competition, what do you do? Like Wal-Mart, you slash your prices to undercut the competition. Yes, this lowers margin, but you have deep pockets and your smaller competitors probably don’t. Once you’ve sent them out of business or out of market, you’ve won the right to control more market share and command a higher price point for your product.

    The way big business in Colorado is conquering smaller businesses is by flooding the market with dried cannabis. While this is a win for consumers in the short term, I suspect it’s an anti-competitive tactic that’ll substantially increase prices over the long run. While that’ll be great for investors, it’s not such good news for consumers.

    This isn’t just a concern in Colorado

    Of course, big business’ takeover of the pot industry isn’t just something we’re seeing happen in Colorado. Canada, which has been a source of great success for the green rush and investors, looks to be dominated by just a handful of larger businesses.

    That article also bears a link to an older Economist article (paywalled), a good chunk of which is in the Vox summary but isn’t linked there:

    And then there are the workers:

    Personal Protective Equipment for Workers in the Emerging Cannabis Industry

    Back to anecdote: an acquaintance and near-neighbor works as electrician and plumber on a construction crew that converts warehouses to growhouses.

    Because of the rush to production, he often works on partially finished and already producing sites.He gets to wear a bunny suit (full body overall) and facemask like the plant tenders, but he has to cclimb rigging and apply muscle to tools, and the protective clothing is hot and restrictive, so risks exposure without it.

    The work conditions are extreme. Growers pump CO₂ into the growing areas which is pretty much the whole warehouse. Hanging sheets of plastic trap air, dust and heat, fumes from hydroponic media. The lighting is UV rich, not so much on the human-visible spectrum. My pal is 62 and fairly spry, but has passed out on the floor several times, leaves work dazed and exhausted after 6 hours.

    Pay for tenders/trimmers is in the $12/hr range (but you get to collect and resell shake, so it’s an opportunity for the marginalized/desperate). Some houses currently do not supply masks or gloves, workers have to bring their own.

    IMO the weed isn’t that great either, with odd chemical overtones and finishes, not the rich and broad skunks and fruits of yesteryear (I generally avoid pot now, but smoked for decades earlier in life).

    But it’s not a one-sided situation. The industry has been developing specialized strains for specifically narrow medicinal and/or psychotropic effects. Another acquaintance has been struggling for years with medications for bipolar syndrome, all of the pharmaceuticals have some kind of awful side effect, weight gain, depression, fertility/performance decline, sleep disruption, etc. This is a 20%-30%er, they’re getting a higher-than-average grade of medical support. They recently got a scrip for a marijuana strain, an oil that they vape. I tried it, it’s very mild, not what I’d call recreational. But the side effects are so far nil, just the settling of the bipolar phases. They are losing weight, engaging socially, finding real health for the first time in their lives.

  11. cocomaan

    This seems like a great way to be attorney general for three years and then never again.

    There are many purple states like Florida that have medical programs.

  12. Jim Haygood

    From a linguistic point of view, using the 100-year-old Mexican slang term ‘marijuana’ in US criminal statutes is as laughable as using ‘vajajay’ in a medical textbook.

    But then, ‘leaders’ who grimly continue an abjectly failed War on Drugs aren’t serious people anyway. So it’s perfectly appropriate that they use comical, degraded language … preferably with the aid of a helium balloon during public orations.

  13. Wukchumni

    The quality of alcohol during prohibition was awful, lots of watered down hooch, bathtub gin, etc., and people went blind or died from drinking industrial alcohol. It ceased to be a problem after 1934…

    Whereas during the cannabis prohibition, all the quality did was greatly improve. Will ditchweed rule on the basis of price in the future?

    1. BadTrader

      That is not entirely true. Read up on the U.S. government spraying paraquat on outdoor Mexican cannabis fields in the 70’s. That shifted production indoors in the US and Europe which led to selective breeding that increased THC levels and decreased CBD levels since no one was focused on CBD. While the potency and quality increased it came at the expense of being laced with a host of herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides. Since those bad chemicals are heavily applied during the flowering phase and can’t simply be washed off it means people have been smoking chemical laced weed for years. Canada has taken a huge step by fining any producer more than just a cost of business fine caught using any unapproved chemical. With legalazition you can easily test producers batches and incentivize proper growing techniques to grow pharmaceutical grade cannabis. The effects of smoking all the fungicides, herbicides, and pesticides residues haven’t really been studied but are one more reason to legalize and regulate. The medical use has also heavily relied on CBD levels while recreational use focuses on THC levels.

  14. Tyronius

    First, shake out the little guys.
    Then hand the entire industry to Big Pharma.
    They’ll write bills for Congress to restrict growing to them alone, then they’ll Jack up prices for ditch weed.

    What could go wrong?

  15. jfleni

    This simple weed grows and thrives on all continents, not excepting Antarctica; it’s time to wish good luck to people like retrograde Confederate Sessions; they have lost and will
    keep losing!

    Stick to a small glass of wine maybe?

  16. freedeomny

    It is SO ridiculous that pot is illegal federally and Sessions is rescinding Obama policy. I mean, has anyone ever heard of anyone robbing a bank while high on pot? (the thought is almost laughable..) How about domestic violence between a stoned husband and wife? Overdoses by weed? Addiction issues? And yet, any chucklehead can EASILY buy a gun in the good ole USA…..

  17. Sluggeaux

    I say keep the Democrats and their Big Pharma owners out of it. Let Jeffie-Reb rattle his Confederate battle flag at them. Corporate weed is poison. Pot for profit is exploitation. The Feds can’t be bothered to come after every discrete little backyard grow.

    Let ten million gardens bloom…

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