November 19th, 2015 – Consumer advocate Ralph Nader believes marijuana legalization holds the potential to be a “massive gift to society”, so long as the industry gets the regulations right. And believe it or not, the fate of the planet may well rest on how well we do it.
Speaking to cannabis industry members during his keynote address at the 2015 Marijuana Business Conference and Expo in Las Vegas last week, Nader’s advice was this “Implement the highest standards of industry regulation to avoid the corruption seen elsewhere in society”.
Nader believes the war on drugs has been a “colossal failure” that has ruined countless lives. Citing a litany of corruption & hypocrisy ranging from Wall Street bankers escaping justice for the 2008 economic meltdown to the criminalizing of cannabis patients into the private prison system, Nader said “We don’t send alcoholics to jail, we don’t send tobacco users to jail – marijuana usage is not a criminal issue, it’s a health issue”.
Nader believes criminalizing of marijuana has created a negative, destructive pattern that feeds on itself – jailing users, feeding the private prison system, militarizing police forces, costing taxpayers, destroying lives and creating hopelessness – repeat.
Nader contends that even to this day, we are still feeling the negative social, economic and democracy impacts from alcohol prohibition due to the accompanying corruption and criminal underground it created. And we will be facing the negative impacts of marijuana prohibition for decades to come. Since 1970, $2 Trillion in estimated sales of marijuana that have gone to criminal organizations, based on current market estimates. In addition, it is estimated that someone in America is arrested on a marijuana-related issue every 42 seconds.
“This is the rule of law gone mad” says Nader. ” It (marijuana prohibition) is pursuing objectives precisely the opposite of what the rule of law should produce. And it’s time to end it, once and for all,” Nader declared to great applause.
In contrast, Nader believes legalization is a potential gift to a broken criminal justice system, to a healthier society and even, astonishingly, to humanity’s survival.
Nader believes the negative cycle associated with marijuana prohibition can and should be reversed into a positive cycle through proper regulation: positive economic impacts due to drug war moneys re-allocated, fewer prisons, less criminal activity and corruption, less social harm, increased tax revenues for mental health, education and social programs leading to increased access to education and healthcare.
To avoid the pitfalls of self-regulation Nader warned the audience:
“Proper regulation is the best aspirin you could ever have, other than marijuana,” Nader said, to a great round of laughter from the audience.
Importantly, at the crux of his argument, Nader believes that marijuana legalization paves the way for the reintroduction of industrial hemp into society – what he sees as a critical piece to solving the issue of global climate change through hemp’s great potential to support a sustainable planet.
Industrial hemp can be harvested and processed to create a barrel of oil that competes on par with drilled oil – with the ability of creating thousands of products traditionally made from drilled oil – except that hemp oil is sustainable since it sequesters CO2 from the atmosphere whereas drilled oil puts CO2 into the atmosphere.
In order to bring about the positive social impacts of marijuana legalization and industrial hemp, Nader contends that the industry must implement the highest standards for inspections of products as well as in advertising and truth. The industry must avoid the kinds of corruption from self-regulation such as that seen in the automobile industry with the recent Volkswagen emissions testing scandal.
He also believes the industry should shun monopolistic forces.
But as the industry emerges, private interests are circling to address this estimated $55 Billion North American market and Nader had this warning about allowing the new industry to be overtaken:
“To put pay-to-play in a (regulatory) initiative that’s going to be law is a nightmare, and you should never allow that to happen,” he said. “If you’re going to free marijuana, you’ve got to free the people who grow it and the people who sell it, and not put in monopolies and oligopolies.”
The fate of the planet may well rest on how we regulate and tax the marijuana market moving forward.