Culture: If Cannabis is Your Industry, then Your Business is Politics

If Cannabis is Your Industry, then Your Business is Politics

By Sean Donahoe


Since Colorado’s adult use market began on January 1, there hasn’t been a more controversial policy subject than edibles, and after the now infamous column by Maureen Dowd in the New York Times, this has essentially become a national conversation.

The simple fact is that edibles and other categories of cannabis-infused products have become some of the most popular means for responsible adults to discreetly medicate. For decades, a cellophane-wrapped, home-baked brownie of questionable quality and unknown potency scored in a hasty exchange in parking lots before big concerts was the extent of the “industry” that was producing edibles.

Now, some of the best edible manufacturers have chosen to self-regulate, by choosing to test their medicine, by choosing to produce in commercial kitchens, by creating clear and informative labeling, and by selling a consistently and reasonably dosed product. It’s hoped that these industry best practices should be incentivized as much as possible by any regulatory framework that gets adopted. But, like so much else in the cannabis industry, local politics unfortunately could threaten the emerging edibles market, as elected officials have found a soapbox to stand on as some cities have moved to regulate edibles and extraction. The regulations pushed by the City of San Jose are a perfect example of this under-informed regulatory overreach with the Mayor openly bragging that the ordinance’s intent was to “break the vendor model.”

Yes, that’s what is at stake here, as the lack of state-level regulations has allowed for cities to develop regulations for edibles and the production of cannabis-infused products. These can be reasonable regulations as seen in San Francisco or can be worryingly over-complicated regulations as proposed (but blocked) recently in San Diego.

It comes down to this: If cannabis is your industry, then your business is politics. Sophisticated cannabis entrepreneurs, and the patients who rely upon innovative cannabis-infused products, should understand that politics matter, and act like politics matter. What you aren’t prepared for, what you aren’t able to influence, and what you aren’t able to adapt to can hurt your continued business operation. We should expect that the cannabis industry will serve more of a role in politics here in California, which brings us to the subject of this November’s local ballot measures.

Agricultural production comes naturally to Californians and yet many counties have enacted cultivation bans and unreasonable restrictions. These are being challenged at the ballot box this November in Shasta, Lake, Butte and Nevada counties, as voters will be asked to consider the economic benefits of a regulated, agricultural production of medical cannabis. Professional cannabis farmers can follow best management practices, can use water responsibly, and can provide patients in California with high quality sungrown cannabis. Regulating of storefront dispensaries are the subject of local ballot measures in Encinitas, La Mesa, Santa Ana, Blythe, and Shasta Lake City all have local ballot measures of various sorts. But these are just the first wave of what I anticipate to be many future fights, as prohibition is rolled back city by city, county by county, over the next several years. Supporters of cannabis policy reform should understand the role that politics plays in access to edibles and other cannabis products.

(To learn more about these ballot measures, and candidates supported by the cannabis industry, or to learn how you can help out please visit for more information.)