Like Gay Marriage, Pot Legalization Appears To Be An Irreversible Trend

The momentum for pot legalization is getting an awesome push from an entrepreneur determined to make his company the Starbucks of marijuana. This is at The Stranger:

Jamen Shively, CEO of Seattle-based Diego Pellicer, announced plans this afternoon to invest $100 million over the next three years in the burgeoning “social marijuana” market with a national chain of marijuana stores. In doing so, the former Microsoft manager is not only taking a page from the Howard Shultz playbook for building Starbucks, he’s also testing the Obama administration’s tolerance for flouting federal drug prohibition.

“Yes, we are Big Marijuana,” Shively, 45, said unabashedly about ambitions to “be the most recognized brand in an industry that does not exist yet.” And in doing so, politically, Shively would also create the first consolidated economic engine that advocates for legalization.

At a press conference in downtown’s tallest skyscraper, Shively said he and business partners will begin in Washington State and Colorado, where rules for legal pot come online this year, and wait as voters pick off prohibition across the country. Flanked by lawyers, a state lawmaker, and former Mexico president Vicente Fox, Shively said he is a “couple weeks” from an initial $10 million milestone, and within three years, he fully expects to open—some medical marijuana and some recreational marijuana—a dozen branded stores in Washington State, another dozen stores in Colorado, and as many as hundreds in California (a state where only medical marijuana is currently legal but where voters are widely expected to legalize recreational pot in 2016).

To my mind, this is great news, and will help wind down the drug war in general, as Vicente Fox is noted in the article as observing:

Keeping his headquarters in Seattle, near Green Lake, Shively says that means employing about 1,000 people locally and 10,000 people nationwide. And sounding like Big Hamburger, Shively says he predicted “tens of millions” of customers will be served.

Former Mexican president [Vicente] Fox star-studded the presser to argue Shively’s investment in the United States’ pot market, an estimated $100 billion industry, is about more than lucrative returns. Fox said the business was “making history” by transferring the cannabis revenues from murderous drug cartels to licensed corporations. A legitimate “business investment… will bring a solution to Mexico’s huge crime problem,” Fox told me. “Criminals won’t be able to get the money because the money will be in the hands of people like Jamen.”

This is a matter of states’ rights. And with big business getting in on the act, even Republicans may back off on the matter of pot legalization and let it happen. This could definitely turn into a big national election issue in 2016 if any politician campaigns to stop pot legalization in states where voters want it. And to accommodate what individual states are doing, the federal laws need to start evolving now, so it’s time for President Obama to get out front on the issue.

Will he?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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9 Responses to Like Gay Marriage, Pot Legalization Appears To Be An Irreversible Trend

  1. Hi Santi, this is an interesting article.

    I teach English to some top university professors in Mexico. Recently, we had a debate on the legalisation of drugs. Almost unanimously, they said that they wouldn’t legalise drugs in Mexico, but they WOULD IN THE US. Obviously, it’s the US drug habit that fuels the violence and crime in Mexico – the drugs’ last port of call before being smuggled into the US.

    As a separate point, I find this development worrying. That is, the super-rich are so self-assured about how much they can influence governmental policy that they can be blasé – and heavily invest in something that isn’t yet legal.

    It tells us something about the workings of power in the US.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      I think it’s actually pretty brave–not blase–to defy the government at this level because there are other wealth-backed political interests prepared to back criminalization to the hilt, fund the drug war, and fund lawyers who will go after drug “conspirators” in court.

      As to the distinction between decriminalization of possession and full-on legalization of pot, it’s obviously a complicated question. I wouldn’t be flippant about it, but Portugal, Spain, and Italy are moving in the right direction, and I would hope the US at the federal level would move in the same direction (with liberal states that want full legalization allowed to continue the experiment).

      • My point is not about whether it’s right or wrong to legalise – that is of course the main issue here – but more the power that corporations have in the US and elsewhere. Maybe this time this corporation is using its influence to do something many feel to be right, but should they have that power in the first place? What about – like you mentioned – all of those other corporations that do heinous things because they have undemocratic power over a supposedly democratic nation?

  2. No, Obama won’t weigh in on this at the federal level, not because of political will, but because it will end the ‘war on drugs’ which is a huge thing that you can’t get congress and the senate to vote against because it means losing dollars. Remember, to reverse a currency feed you have to have a bigger one somewhere else or huge public support.

  3. Staffan says:

    I think it’s good that America is going in this direction since it will reduce crime, but I also believe in fighting legal drugs in every way possible. Yes, you can create a big industry of this, but no, it won’t help the economy because the economy relies on more people getting educated and/or entrepreneurial. More drop-out stoners is not the solution.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      Well, I would hope it would evolve into a calmer social thing, like drinking alcohol is for most working people. It wouldn’t be yet another drag on US productivity (like obesity is from fast food being available everywhere).


      • Staffan says:

        I agree. Society would benefit in many ways if alcohol was replaced by marijuana. I think that will happen, at least some extent, with the new legislation.

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