Article by Rick Newman, Yahoo News
James Lee voted for Donald Trump in November and even attended Trump’s inauguration in January. Now, he’s scrambling to save a business venture two years in the making, one which a new Trump policy on marijuana could snuff out overnight.
Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, alarmed the burgeoning legal-marijuana industry on February 23, when he said the Trump administration might practice “greater enforcement” of federal drug laws than the Obama administration had. Federal law bans the use of marijuana, even though eight states and the District of Columbia have declared pot legal for recreational use. Federal law trumps state law, but Obama said in 2012 that the US government had “bigger fish to fry” and essentially wouldn’t enforce the federal law. That led to a surge of investment in marijuana, which is now an $8 billion business in those states.
If Trump begins to enforce the federal ban on marijuana, however, it’s likely to choke the whole industry—with Lee one of the first likely victims. “In the business, people are freaking out,” Lee tells Yahoo Finance. “A lot of us were huge Trump supporters, and still are. But people are running scared, and deals are falling apart. That comment [about greater enforcement] is in direct contradiction to the America-first principle he’s talking about.”
A business-to-business ‘cannabis cruise’
Lee, 35, runs a consulting firm in Chesapeake, Virginia, called Skill Stix that has been working for two years to sponsor a “cannabis cruise” from Miami to Jamaica that would be a business-to-business networking event for companies hoping to cash in on legal marijuana. Lee wants to connect the small businesses that have popped up in legal states such as Colorado and Washington with the big companies that might want to invest in them, sell them equipment or buy their products.
Some marijuana growers modify John Deere combines for harvesting their crop, for instance, and might want to learn more about Deere’s product line. Whole Foods sells non-psychoactive hemp products, similar to the drug form of marijuana, that are sourced from overseas—since it’s still against federal law to grow it here. But the upscale grocer might want to find domestic growers if US law were to change. The founders of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream have said they’d be open to weed-infused ice cream if the drug becomes legal. Many other companies would doubtless jump in if full legalization opened up new avenues of profitability.