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In US, marijuana market is fast-growing business

By Belinda Robinson in New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-02-23 01:27

File Photo: A sales clerk looks over variety jars of marijuana at the Denver Discreet Dispensary in Denver, Colorado, USA, 1 January 2014. Colorado was the first state in the USA to sell marijuana legally in the US. [Photo/IC]

It’s known by many names — marijuana, cannabis, weed and pot. But a new one — “moneymaker’’ — could be added after legal sales of the drug in 2017 were $8.5 billion in the United States and $9.5 billion worldwide.

The legal medical and recreational marijuana markets combined are projected to be worth $23.4 billion by 2022, and are the fastest-growing business in the US, now employing 200,000 people, according to a report by Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics.

Thirty-three US states have legalized medical marijuana, and 10 states and Washington, DC, have legalized marijuana for recreational use by adults over age 21. Every state that has legalized recreational use of marijuana first legalized it for medical purposes.

Utah and Missouri voted to legalize medical marijuana in the 2018 midterm elections, and several states are considering doing so this year, including New York and neighboring New Jersey. Marijuana is illegal under federal law.

Despite more states legalizing marijuana for recreational use and polls finding that the American public supports legalization, numerous groups are fighting the move, in some cases attempting to roll back laws in states where marijuana is legal. Their main concerns are that allowing recreational use of marijuana will make it too accessible and expand its misuse.

Kevin Sabet is the president and CEO of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which opposes recreational-use policies and is the country’s leading anti-legalization group.

“If we were a country with a history of being able to promote moderation in our consumer use of products, or promote responsible corporate advertising or no advertising, or if we had a history of being able to take taxes gained from a vice and redirect them into some positive areas, I might be less concerned about what I see happening in this country. But I think we have a horrible history of dealing with these kinds of things,” he said.

William Lowe, the treasurer of Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana, said: “It’s very difficult to understand why people today still continue to support legalizing this drug, because nothing has been approved by the (Food and Drug Administration) and there are well-known dangers. But at the moment, we’re not winning the battle and we’re struggling to find a way to get our message out there.”

The American Anti-Drug Council opposes legalization of marijuana for recreational or medical purposes, saying there can be dire consequences for overuse of marijuana.

Robert DuPont, a doctor who is the former director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said, “There is no acceptable role in modern medicine for using burning leaves as a drug delivery system, because smoke is inherently unhealthy.”

The push to legalize recreational use of marijuana is not limited to the US.

Last year, Canada became the second and largest country in the world to legalize it nationwide. Uruguay became the first in 2013. Medical marijuana has been lawful in Canada since 2001, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau successfully campaigned for its recreational use.

Several Asian nations — including Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and South Korea — are also seeking to make medicinal marijuana legal.

In most European countries — aside from the Netherlands, which allows personal use — marijuana is illegal, although police allow possession of small amounts in many EU countries.

In June, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced legislation that would remove marijuana from the government’s list of controlled substances, and seeks to decriminalize marijuana across the country. President Donald Trump has expressed support for allowing states to decide on whether to legalize marijuana.

A Gallup Poll in October found that 64 percent of respondents supported legalizing marijuana. A Harris poll found that 85 percent of those surveyed believed that marijuana should be legalized for medical use.

US corporations see moneymaking potential in the growing public acceptance of marijuana.

“The mature business community is starting to accept the cannabis industry as something that’s real, as something that needs to be reckoned with,” John Hudak, an expert in state and federal marijuana policy at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, was quoted as saying by digital news service Circa.

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