Legalization helps us understand marijuana’s health effects.

The federal government’s prohibition of marijuana has systematically hampered serious scientific inquiry into the health risks of marijuana for decades. We’re hamstrung by a Catch-22, pithily captured by the Wire: “Marijuana is illegal because the [Drug Enforcement Administration] says it has no proven medical value, but researchers have to get approval from the DEA to research marijuana’s medical value.”

There is substantial evidence on its ability to alleviate pain and nausea, but its benefits and risks are still under-explored relative to how long and how widely the drug has been used. Hopefully, as marijuana reform sweeps the country, we can start looking into the complex question of the carcinogenic properties of marijuana smoke and it’s potential to alter teenage brain development.

These are just a handful of the lessons we’ve learned from states’ experiments in decriminalizing and legalizing marijuana use, either for medicinal or recreational use. Marijuana is hardly the harmful societal force for evil it was once considered. As that new consensus grows, we’ll only know more about the drug’s actual effects on society.

The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) is working to allow states to establish their own systems for regulating cannabis without federal interference. While we are likely a number of years away from the end of federal marijuana prohibition, now is the time to push the conversation forward. By promoting the benefits of the cannabis industry, both for consumers and the economy, NCIA is gradually undermining institutional support for prohibition. In order to begin the process of organizing, NCIA is supporting a number of current bills in Congress, including the “Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2013” (H.R. 499), introduced by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), which would regulate marijuana like alcohol under federal law.

The Obama administration took an important step forward in August 2013, when the Department of Justice issued a memo directing U.S. Attorneys not to direct resources toward prosecuting individuals and businesses acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws. But some U.S. Attorneys are openly defying this policy by continuing to threaten state-legal cannabis businesses with criminal action and civil asset forfeiture. NCIA is ensuring that members of Congress and top administration officials appreciate the importance of the industry through direct lobbying and education efforts leading toward the day when state-legal businesses will be treated justly under federal law.

NCIA supports the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013 (H.R. 525 in the U.S. House of Representatives and S. 359 in the Senate) and will encourage members of Congress to co-sponsor these two bills. It is long past time to end the nonsensical ban on hemp cultivation in this country.

NCIA supports the repeal of the federal Drug Paraphernalia statutes and U.S. Customs policies that harm businesses providing safe cannabis consumption accessories. Massive federal actions like 2003’s Operation Pipe Dreams must become a relic of the past.

NCIA is working to improve the American public’s perception of cannabis, cannabis consumers, and the industry that serves them. By seizing upon media opportunities in a timely fashion and elevating the voices of our members, we are changing the way the public views cannabis businesses. Educating the public on the value the legal cannabis industry brings to the U.S. economy and society as well as its relative safety and efficacy as a medicine and wellness product is the key in our efforts to reform federal law.

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Unified leadership by the cannabis industry on the global stage is needed and the time to act is now. The International Coalition of Cannabis Companies & Organizations (ICCCO) aims to unite the wide range of cannabis-related businesses and organizations into a singular voice on the international stage to craft, direct, and steward regulatory policy. Guided by the industry it supports and represents, ICCCO will build a model regulatory framework for cannabis in the three major areas of policy: medical marijuana, responsible adult recreational use, and industrial hemp. By building a policy consensus utilizing a bottom-up approach from a democratic ICCCO membership of cannabis industry stakeholders, policy experts, and the medical and scientific communities, standards and best practices will be codified and guideline recommendations made to regulators. In doing so, the nascent cannabis & hemp industry can continue to develop as a safe and legitimate business practice.

Because we are in a transitional period from illicit to licit trade, the collective global cannabis companies and organizations have a duty to be the standard-bearers of fair and ethical trade practices, environmental stewardship, and human rights. ICCCO maintains that adopting these values is not merely in accord with the best business practices for the cannabis industry, but imperative to its continued growth and acceptance. Unlike most industries, a willing and ready customer base for cannabis is already in place, and market growth is most likely assured. Therefore, the onus is on the cannabis industry to develop a socially acceptable method of doing legal business that can be transparent and trustworthy, without deceptive and unethical business practices such as those that have been historically undertaken by the tobacco industry. Along with the economic opportunities that come from ending prohibition, there is an opportunity to positively impact many issues such as social injustice, environmental stewardship, and public health, all of which would benefit from an industry-led approach.


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