It’s time to change our perceptions about the South as a holdout when it comes to legal cannabis. Here’s an inside look at what’s happening today, and how it could change your life forever.
The American South has long been considered a holdout in the changing landscape of cannabis acceptance.
When California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana back in 1996, the south was safely removed on the opposite coast.
And when Colorado voters passed Amendment 64 in 2012, leading to legal adult-use cannabis at the beginning of 2014, the divide – both geographic and political – didn’t feel any smaller.
As states in the Northeast continue to fall like dominoes, with states like New York and New Jersey jockeying for first place in the race toward full legalization, Dixieland has stood resolute.
Until recently, that is.
With a majority of Republican voters now in support of legalization, longstanding notions about cannabis in these deep red states must be reexamined.
Missing the changes happening right now in the South could mean missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime .
“Simply the Right Thing to Do”
Georgia House and Senate members have just approved House Bill 324, a medical marijuana reform measure focused on low-THC cannabis oil.
The bill, known as Georgia’s Hope Act, will close loopholes created from a previous act that essentially allowed the use of low-THC cannabis oil for certain medical conditions, but not the growing or selling of the plants nor possession of the oil in the state.
Under the new law, the “production, manufacturing, and dispensing” of low-THC cannabis oil will be legal, as will possession and use for qualified medical patients.
Republican Governor Brian Kemp has already stated his intent to sign the bill into the law. “[The bill] is carefully crafted to provide access to medical cannabis oil to those in need,” he said. “This is simply the right thing to do.”
The introduction of this medical program would bring the total number of states with legal cannabis to 34. Trailblazing states are a thing of the past, and the stragglers are starting to play catch up – stragglers like this next state.
Catching Up with the Times
On Friday, Texas removed hemp from its list of controlled substances.
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This move brings the state up to date with the rest of the country. While the 2018 Farm Bill federally legalized hemp in December, the substance remained illegal at the state level in Texas.
Some uncertainty about the legality of hemp products in the Lone Star State remains, but this declassification is a huge step in the right direction for a state thought of as the biggest hemp holdout.
Expect to see continued pressure to fully legalize hemp products in the state. Remember what Whole Foods CEO John Mackey said last month about his Austin-based chain: “If cannabis is ever passed in Texas, chances are good that grocery stores will be selling that, too.”
And once Whole Food begins offering cannabis-based products in its stores, other national chains will follow suit. There is too much money at stake for Texas to continue dragging its feet.
Along with these inevitabilities, though, we’re going to continue to see some surprises.
The Biggest Surprise
When the 18th Amendment was repealed in 1933, ending the federal prohibition on alcohol, states could still choose to keep booze illegal. The last state to rid itself of its temperance laws was Mississippi over three decades later in 1966.
With that history, the idea that the Magnolia State could legalize cannabis anytime soon is a bit of a shock.
But it’s looking increasingly likely that Mississippi voters will see a medical marijuana ballot measure when they go to the polls next November. Volunteers have already collected nearly all the signatures legally required to put the measure in front of voters.
What’s more, a recent survey found that over two thirds of Mississippians are in favor of legalizing medicinal cannabis. If those numbers hold, medicinal cannabis is a lock.
And those are hardly the only Southern states making moves toward cannabis reform.
Elsewhere in Dixie
Virginia is continuing to expand its medical program, and later this year, the state will see its first five medical dispensaries.
A South Carolina version of a “Compassionate Care Act” passed a subcommittee vote and is currently under consideration by state lawmakers. The vote may be pushed to next year, but Chairwoman Janel Ralph of the Compassionate South Carolina lobbying group believes “we’re closer than we’ve ever been” to seeing medical marijuana in the Palmetto State.
A similar bill is awaiting consideration in Tennessee – one that would even allow doctors to prescribe smokable cannabis, where many other conservative states allow only oils. There are two versions of the bill – one in the House and one in the Senate – and both are sponsored by Republicans. This bill is the natural next step for a state with a robust hemp industry, just like its neighbors in Kentucky.
With the cannabis industry challenging so many norms, investors must move beyond traditional thinking. Legal cannabis is the future of this nation, and that will include the South, too.
Make sure you know how to position yourself to stay ahead of these moves. Getting in on the right company now could create a fortune for you unlike anything we’ve ever seen.
Executive Director, National Institute for Cannabis Investors
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12 responses to “Huge Steps for Cannabis in the American South”
April 09 2019