5 Government hypocrisies that make the cannabis industry's head spin
No matter how sober you are, when it comes to cannabis and government, the world just don't make sense. First, you shouldn't be able to outlaw nature, maaaaan. But there are other hypocrisies even beyond that righteous hippie bullshit. And as the government starts to back away from the War on Drugs, the laws replacing prohibition are a tangled mess of dumb ideas and contradictory dictums.
1. Patents on pot
Weed is illegal, but the government is issuing patents on it. That’s like telling your girlfriend she can’t cheat on you while also having sex with every available orifice within a 12-foot range.
Last week, the government gave a Florida company a patent (patent # 9,587,212) for a method of processing cannabinoids. And in 2015, a group of California growers patented a bunch of high-THC strains.
There's been a social media campaign highlighting the absurdity of the government issuing patents on a substance that's illegal. Users have been telling the DEA to "talk to the hand" and writing the number 6,630,507 on their palms. That's the number of the federal patent the government granted in 1999 for cannabinoids as "antioxidants and neuroprotectants" at the same time they were claiming it had "no accepted medical use." "[This patent is] the very pinnacle of hypocrisy," wrote the Portland Mercury. Maybe someday you'll be arrested for selling an ounce of weed both because you're breaking the law and because you're violating a patent.
2. It’s illegal, but The Man profits from it
Weed is illegal, but the government taxes the living fuck out of it.
Yes, when cannabis businesses file their paperwork on April 15, they have to write a check to the federal government for something that the government says is illegal. Some of that money goes to fighting the War on Drugs, arresting drug users and burning cannabis fields in other countries. So, money made selling pot is funding a war on people making money selling pot. It makes the head spin.
Beyond governmental buzzkills, weed taxes fund some actually awesome stuff: it builds schools, prevents bullying, mentors youths and even funds the State Fair.
In 2016 alone, Colorado, Washington and Oregon collected $500 million in pot taxes combined. That's enough money to build 28 elementary schools, according to Leafly. If the government let weed be legal nationwide, they could collect $28 billion in taxes, one report estimates. That's a lot of elementary schools.
3. Pay taxes, but don't take tax deductions
While we're talking taxes: for a long time, cannabis businesses weren't allowed to take the same tax deductions as other businesses.
This goes way back, to a hilarious case from 1981 in which a drug dealer selling amphetamines, cocaine and marijuana tried to write off as a business expense the miles he drove selling drugs, the scale he used to weigh the drugs and the phone he used to make deals on. The government denied these deductions, saying that you can't have business expenses when your product is illegal. Believe it or not, that asshat is still impacting cannabis businesses today, because the rulings he brought about are still what applies to the friendly pot shop down the street.
Because they're selling a drug that is still federally illegal, dispensaries can't apply for certain tax credits or business exemptions … even though the drugs are legal under state law. And the government is still treating upstanding pot businesses, which are creating jobs and funding schools, like old-school meth dealers.
So the government is fully applying the tax code to these businesses when it benefits them, and not applying it when it doesn't. That's hypocrisy 101.
4. Be safe with your money — but we won't let you put it anywhere safe
So now the pot businesses can make cash at the state level, but they don't have anywhere to put it. Most large, national banks won't deal with pot businesses for fear of losing their federal insurance.
This leads to this huge hypocrisy: the government has publicly expressed concerns that pot businesses will attract crime … but dispensaries are stuck with huge piles of dollar bills because of government banking policies … which attracts crime. It's like telling a company that sells honey that they can't put the honey in jars, even though hungry bears roam the neighborhood.
5. Buy it, but don't smoke it
States like Colorado legalized bud, but then make it illegal to smoke anywhere but crouched in your bathroom under a heavy blanket with the lights off.
You can't smoke it on the street, or in a business, or in a dispensary, or in the millions of acres of federal land that makes up the national forests — or even in outer space (yes, pot is definitely banned from the International Space Station).
Pot activists are working to change this, but they're meeting resistance at every turn, as the Colorado governor made clear when he suggested he would veto a bill allowing pot clubs. So while you won't get in trouble for pot anymore, if you want to do it anywhere but your closet, you still have to pull out the Doob Tube.
Someday, the laws around cannabis might make sense. Until then, the Catch 22 world of pot continues.