Although former presidential hopeful Ralph Nader always trailed in the polls, he's been far ahead of the pack when it comes to cannabis reform.
The three-time presidential candidate has been an outspoken proponent of legalization since 2000, when he called for the decriminalization of marijuana during his first campaign. He also called for an end to the War on Drugs 15 years before Bernie Sanders did.
"Addiction should never be treated as a crime," he said during the 2000 campaign. "It has to be treated as a health problem. We do not send alcoholics to jail in this country."
Those views didn't help Nader win votes at that time. But now that legalization movements are gaining steam in North America, he's moved from the political fringe to center stage.
On Nov. 12, Ralph Nader delivered the keynote speech at Marijuana Business Daily's 4th Annual Conference and Expo in Las Vegas, where thousands of cultivators, investors, advocates, and entrepreneurs gathered to hear his advice for the burgeoning cannabis industry.
Setting High Standards
Marijuana Business Daily reported on the key elements of his speech, one of the most important being proper regulation of the industry going forward.
"We've got to have standards of inspection, for, say, pesticides, for fungus, for rot," Nader told the crowd. "We have to have standards of advertising and truth, so we don't get hit with lawsuits."
Those standards, he argued, should be higher than the norm in other industries. And he urged people in the new industry to hold themselves to even higher expectations.
"Say what you want about marijuana, but it's going to be studied a lot more than some of you may like. Once it's legalized, the universities are going to be freer to do medical research or impact research. So you really have to have an open attitude."
That means allowing independent labs and companies to test marijuana without interference. Although a hassle, he said, those regulations can prevent disasters such as the Volkswagen emissions scandal.
"Why do you think this happened? It's because under federal law, they allowed private labs to do the testing. Watch out for control of these labs by your industry. That's when the problems are going to start."
Canna-business with a Conscience
For all the potential challenges facing the industry, Nader didn't lose sight of the potential good that cannabis can do - first and foremost working to end the unjust War on Drugs as it relates to cannabis.
"This is the rule of law gone mad. It is pursuing objectives precisely the opposite of what the rule of law should produce. And it's time to end it, once and for all," he said. "It's important that you broaden the legalization of marijuana as a gift to improve the criminal justice system."
Finally, he warned the audience of the wrong way of organizing the industry - for example, the "unconscionable" attempt in Ohio to create a marijuana monopoly under Issue 3.
"To put pay-to-play in an initiative that's going to be law is a nightmare, and you should never allow that to happen. If you're going to free marijuana, you've got to free the people who grow it and the people who sell it, and not put in monopolies and oligopolies."