Jesse Ventura, a former governor of Minnesota, actor and professional wrestler, is now an influential advocate of legalized marijuana and wrote commentary summarizing how economically crucial cannabis sales have become to the United States. Part of his summary includes concerns over whether the current administration under President Donald Trump truly understand just how financially important cannabis is now and will be in the future.
Last month I gave the keynote address at the Cannabis World Congress Business Expo in New York City. CWCBExpo is the trade show for the cannabis industry. I had the pleasure of meeting thousands of like-minded cannabis activists, and the experience was truly refreshing and inspiring on many levels.
I learned firsthand that those in the legal cannabis industry — whether they’re growing hemp, medical marijuana or recreational marijuana in Colorado or California or Oregon or wherever — have formed a united front. Everyone at the convention was looking to work together to come up with solutions on how to get the federal government to move forward and embrace this industry, which has grown exponentially.
When it comes to economics, let me put the state of marijuana to you in this way: If Trump reverses state law, he’ll be crippling if not bankrupting the states that have legalized marijuana. Not only will this action go against the will of the people who voted for legalized marijuana, this action will cause yet another economic collapse. And no, that isn’t an exaggeration.
Over half of the states have now legalized marijuana in some way and multiple states are receiving millions, soon to be billions, in tax revenue from this industry. When those states no longer have this tax revenue coming in (tax revenue that is projected to increase steadily each year), where will that money come from?
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Think about it this way: The auto industry was bailed out with roughly $80 billion from taxpayer money, but it is still here, and the industry was able to repay taxpayers overtime. We’re talking about making a profitable, multibillion-dollar industry go away overnight. Meaning America’s president will voluntarily make hundreds of thousands of Americans unemployed overnight. How many will default on their mortgages? How many will declare personal bankruptcy?
A report by New Frontier Data states the marijuana industry is projected to create a quarter of a million jobs by 2020 — that’s more jobs than the manufacturing industry, utilities, or government jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Prior to the 2016 election, the marijuana industry, which existed in 25 states at the time, was worth a combined $7.2 billion. Now, this industry is expected to grow at a compounded annual rate of 17 percent, with medical marijuana sales growing from $4.7 billion in 2016 to $13.3 billion in 2020. Adult recreational sales (recreational use is only available in eight states) are expected to go from $2.6 billion in 2016 to $11.2 billion by 2020.
Colorado alone has a $1.3 billion marijuana industry and much of the tax money is going toward scholarships so students can go to community colleges for free. This isn’t “found money” either. Before marijuana was legal, this money was going to the black market, to the drug cartels. Now it’s being used to fund college scholarships. Let that sink in for a minute. In the Denver metro area, marijuana tax dollars are being used for infrastructure. Imagine that. We don’t need to rely on false presidential promises to fix our local roads and bridges. The town of Edgewater is spending $1.4 million in marijuana tax revenue to repave streets and replace their city hall with a new building that includes a police station and library.