From Reefer Madness to…Investor Gladness

Marijuana legalization has achieved such enormous strides, many people are starting to take access to weed for granted. The historical context of the War on Drugs is being forgotten.

Below, I provide a quick refresher course, to prevent complacency. Paradoxically, the history of marijuana’s demonization, and its prohibition at the federal level in the U.S., also underscore the industry’s huge room for growth. Once the federal ban in the U.S. is lifted, marijuana investments will soar.

Our story begins at America’s southwestern border.

The wave of illegal immigrants at the border is a potent political issue in the 2024 presidential campaign. But fear of “The Other” is nothing new.

Following the Mexican Revolution of 1910, a wave of Mexican immigrants came streaming into the southwestern U.S. and helped popularize the use of marijuana. Cannabis in Spanish was referred to as “marihuana” or “mariguana.” The Anglicized version is “marijuana.”

As the drug’s use spread, it was increasingly seen as a scourge perpetrated by unwanted brown people from Mexico. Anti-immigrant forces morphed into pot prohibitionists, referring to the drug as “marijuana” to emphasize its Mexican-ness.

I turn your attention to a man named Henry J. Anslinger. Before President Richard Nixon officially launched his War on Drugs in 1971, there was the legacy of Mr. Anslinger.

Anslinger was the pioneer of the drug war. He served as the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics during the presidencies of Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy. The bureau was the precursor of the modern-day Drug Enforcement Administration.

Anslinger played the key role in the introduction and passage of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which outlawed possessing or selling pot.

Let’s not sugar coat it: Anslinger was a racist hate-monger. He once told the nation:

“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.​​”

Initiated by Anslinger, the propaganda campaign against marijuana was relentless for decades, exemplified by the infamous and lurid anti-pot film “Reefer Madness” (1936).

Nixon’s War on Drugs also was animated by racism and reactionary resentment, launched as a means to persecute the White House’s perceived political enemies.

During Nixon’s tenure, what did anti-war protestors, civil rights activists, the counterculture, and left-wing academics have in common? They hated Nixon, and they tended to smoke marijuana. Nixon couldn’t outlaw their political activities, but he could stigmatize and arrest them over drugs.

Nowadays, Nixon’s War on Drugs is widely viewed as a failure and it’s currently being dismantled, with efforts to make restitution to minority communities that suffered.

As of this writing, 38 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, with 24 states legalizing weed for recreational use.

This trend toward legal normalization reflects a growing acceptance of the therapeutic potential of cannabis and the desire of health care professionals to provide patients with alternative treatment options for a myriad of medical conditions.

Pot stocks: on the bargain shelf…

As the medical establishment increasingly embraces cannabis, investors who act now stand to reap outsized profits.

After a brutal slump in 2023, marijuana equities are mounting a major comeback this year. That means value plays are ripe for the picking.

WATCH THIS VIDEO: 10 Ironclad Reasons Why Pot Stocks Will Surge in 2024

Social acceptance of marijuana is at an all-time high (pun intended). That’s especially true for medical pot.

In survey results released February 20, research firm Statista found that 36% of U.S. adults view cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD) as a viable alternative to conventional medical remedies, with 28% expressing a preference for it over chemical-based medications.

Remarkably, there is minimal hesitancy among the public regarding the medical application of cannabis, with only 11% of respondents expressing concerns about potential risks, and a mere 9% opposed to the legalization of medical cannabis altogether (see chart).

And yet, despite this progress, medical marijuana remains a highly regulated industry subject to a complex web of laws and regulations. The regulatory framework varies significantly from state to state, encompassing licensing requirements, product testing standards, taxation schemes, and patient eligibility criteria.

State regulatory agencies play a pivotal role in overseeing the cultivation, processing, distribution, and dispensing of medical cannabis, ensuring compliance with applicable laws and safeguarding public health and safety.

While states have taken the lead in legalizing medical marijuana, the federal government’s stance on cannabis represents a persistent hurdle. Marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, categorized alongside heroin and LSD as having a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.

This classification poses numerous challenges for medical marijuana businesses, including limited access to banking services, restrictions on interstate commerce, and the threat of federal enforcement actions.

However, there are signs of progress in Washington. In recent years, the U.S. House of Representatives has repeatedly passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which seeks to decriminalize cannabis at the federal level and address the racial disparities in marijuana enforcement.

While the fate of the MORE Act in the divided 118th Congress remains uncertain, its previous passage in the House represents a significant milestone in the push for federal cannabis reform.

That said, the House is currently controlled by the GOP and its social conservatives, who remain adamantly anti-pot. The Democratically controlled Senate and White House skew more favorably toward federal legalization, but that’s unlikely to occur this year. It’s my informed view, though, that federal legalization is inevitable.

Regardless, the burgeoning commercial market for medical and recreational marijuana continues to grow rapidly. Dispensaries have become commonplace in many states, offering a wide range of cannabis products, including flower, edibles, concentrates, and topicals.

Moreover, the emergence of online platforms and delivery services has made accessing medical cannabis more convenient for patients, particularly those with mobility issues or limited transportation options.

The commercialization of marijuana is attracting burgeoning investment from venture capitalists, pharmaceutical companies, and mainstream retailers.

The upshot: Every portfolio should have exposure to companies in the cannabis sector. That’s why you should consider my trading service Marijuana Profit Alert.

Marijuana Profit Alert can help you make money from the investment bonanza in marijuana and other psychotropic drugs that were once illicit but are now entering the mainstream. Click here to learn more.

John Persinos is the editorial director of Investing Daily.

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