After a gruelling election season that saw eight states legalize recreational or medical cannabis, you could forgive Rob Kampia, Executive Director of the Marijuana Policy Project, if he wanted to take a breather. But as Kampia insisted at on Day One of the 5th Annual Marijuana Business Conference & Expo in Las Vegas, "I'm not taking a break."
Kampia spoke as part of a panel entitled "Win, Lose or Draw: 2016 Election Postgame," alongside Ethan Nadelmann, Founder & Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, Nevada State Senator Tick Segerblom, and Executive Chancellor of Oaksterdam University, Dale Sky Jones.
As Kampia noted, the success of the 2016 legalization initiatives stems from years of planning. As such, pro-legalization groups are already hard at work on 2017 and 2018.
On the medical front, Kampia and the Marijuana Policy Project have their sights set on legislation in Louisiana, Texas, South Carolina, Utah and Nebraska - as well as a ballot initiative in Missouri. Meanwhile, recreational legislation is the goal for Rhode Island, Maryland, Vermont, with a recreational ballot initiative in Michigan.
Nadelmann then chimed in and stated that Puerto Rico and Missouri were also part of the plan.
All four panelists were clearly bolstered by the success of this year's election. Nadelmann called California's Proposition 64 "the gold standard" for legalization initiatives, adding later that California-style legislation would one day be a goal for states such as New York, New Jersey and New Mexico.
Sky Jones, whose Oaksterdam University in Oakland, California is the United States' first-ever cannabis college, echoed that thought. "Whatever you’re good at now, there is a need for you in this industry in California” - citing innovation as one of the state industry's strengths, though she cautioned that "we have enough vape pens". She also stressed the importance of learning from legalization pioneers like Colorado in order to navigate the risks of doing business in the marijuana industry.
Which brings us back to the one state that didn't legalize on November 8 - Arizona. Calling it "a heartbreaker," Kampia noted that the opposition in the state was large, organized and well-funded. Had the opposition only raised $1-1.5 million, instead of the $6-7 million they ended up with, legalization would likely have passed.
But there's no denying the increasingly green map of the United States. "Politicians are way behind the public" on marijuana, said Senator Segerblom. "We can't put the genie back in the bottle."
Neil Bonner and Dan Culberson are on the ground in Las Vegas, covering the Marijuana Business Conference & Expo for Civilized. Look for more stories in the days to come.
Banner photo: The Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Shutterstock)