This week marks my second anniversary working with the National Cannabis Industry Association, and with everything going on in the world, it very nearly slipped by me unnoticed. However, the occasion has given me an opportunity to reflect on the past and look to the future, both of which are truly motivating to me when it comes to the work we are doing in the present.
When I first came to NCIA, it was a very turbulent time for cannabis policy reform, the industry, and for me personally.
After working in the movement for ten years, I was very familiar with what the organization stood for and what it had accomplished. I was eager to join those efforts and pivot more into federal policy work after a wave of state-level victories and to help protect businesses that were responsible for so much innovation despite unprecedented challenges over the years.
It was also a very scary time: earlier in the year, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had rescinded the Cole Memo that had guided federal prosecutors in their hands-off approach to regulated (but federally illegal) cannabis businesses, and then-Rep. Pete Sessions’ prohibitionist tenure as head of the House Rules Committee had a firm stranglehold on any cannabis-related legislation in Congress.
This move just happened to coincide with the impending birth of my first child, which made me look at everything through a different lens and ask myself some hard questions. Was I making the right decision to continue working in a field that could get shut down at any moment? Was there any hope for positive change in the foreseeable future? Should I keep working in cannabis when there are other ways I can try to make a positive difference for future generations?
The answer to those questions was a resounding “yes” as I was soon to see repeatedly in the coming months. The feared federal crackdown on state-legal cannabis businesses never came. Congress once again approved a spending ban on targeting medical cannabis patients and providers. By the end of the year, both Jeff and Pete were out of their jobs, a Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives had created opportunities for real progress on cannabis bills, and voters in three more states had approved ballot initiatives to create regulated adult or medical cannabis markets. It was an interesting year, to say the least.
But I think one of the most important developments for me was getting more direct exposure to the people that work so hard to advance this vibrant and inspiring industry. From the people who risked their freedom and often their life savings to open businesses when the threat of arrest and forfeiture were commonplace, to those working every day to undo the damage of our disastrous drug laws and create fair opportunities in the industry for people and communities that have been most harmed by prohibition, I can safely say I’ve never met more passionate and dedicated individuals.
Practically every day I see developments and ideas that could have wide-reaching effects outside of cannabis. Social and criminal justice issues that are starting to become more central to cannabis policy are forcing us to reexamine many problems related to fairness and historical inequality in our society. The increasing focus on corporate responsibility and sustainability is creating a model for other businesses to follow at a time when we desperately need one. New innovations are improving health and wellness while paving the way for technologies, methods, and applications that have the potential to revolutionize agricultural and industrial fields.
I want my child to grow up in a world with laws that prioritize justice, freedom, and fairness; with businesses that care about their communities and try to make the world a better, cleaner, and healthier place. There is still a lot of work to do, but I know I am in the right place to help make that world a reality in my own small way. I can’t wait to see what the next ten years hold for NCIA.