Texas and Tennessee Bans Weed but Profits Off Legal Weed in Illinois
The signing of HB 1438 (Summary Provided) into law brings with it new opportunities and benefits for Illinois residents. Not only can they expect to have the legal ability to buy recreational cannabis in 2020, but close to 800,000 people will have their criminal records expunged for having been convicted of possession or purchase of marijuana. Those affected will also benefit from access to social equity programs that will assist in the sourcing of business licenses.
Employment opportunities are also expected to rise from the growing demand of goods and the startup businesses that will benefit from a $12 million fund. Job training programs arranged by the Department of Agriculture and community colleges will help prepare low-income students to join the industry. Clearly, things are looking up in Illinois thanks to their legalization efforts. However, what seems odd is that states that have severely restricted medical marijuana programs are also expected to benefit from these programs.
Texas and Tennessee do run medical marijuana programs but do not allow for its recreational use so far. In Texas, possession of up to just two ounces of cannabis can result in a $2,000 fine, 180 days in jail and suspension of a person’s driver’s license. When it comes to medical marijuana use, only low THC cannabis oil is permitted, with a concentration of not more than 0.5% with a doctor’s prescription, and not more than 0.3% without. It is permitted for the treatment of intractable epilepsy. Those that are found in possession of hash oil suffer even more punitive punishments including a felony conviction and a sentence of up to 2 years in state prison.
A recently signed law legalizing hemp has caused confusion across the Lone Star state, resulting in many prosecutors opting not to pursue misdemeanor marijuana cases. Despite efforts by Governor Greg Abbott to have prosecutors enforce marijuana laws, the attorneys insist that his legislation redefined marijuana and without the facilities to distinguish the two, there would be doubt casted during criminal proceedings.
Tennessee has also proven tough on marijuana use with strict allowances for just non-psychoactive medical CBD oil. Possession of low amounts can result in a misdemeanor conviction, $250 fine, and a requirement to attend a drug offender school. Subsequent convictions attract higher fines and a possible felony conviction from the second offense. Sale of marijuana is currently a felony offense in Tennessee. Many can wonder how long they can keep these charades going on, since most states will have fully legalized cannabis by 2024 according to projections. One can see how a Nationwide legalization bill can be approved more easily with this level if support across the country, and increasing pressure on our House and Senate political leaders.
Efforts to reduce penalties for minor possession cases by local law enforcement in Nashville and Memphis were thwarted by then-Governor Bill Haslam. The bill he signed ensures that local laws do not contravene state penalties going forward. Tennessee does not have a voter initiative process, meaning that for there to be any change in state law as it pertains to marijuana use and penalties, elected officials are the only route.
Despite the clear anti-marijuana stance of the two states legislatures, they surprisingly both invested in a publicly-traded investment firm named Innovative Industrial Properties (IIPR). This San Diego based outfit acquires and manages industrial properties that are leased to state-licensed medical marijuana growers. They own and lease a marijuana growing facility in Barry, Illinois.
According to reports, this situation came about as a result of IIPR being deemed a safe investment with good returns by the fund managers. The company has apparently made its way into indexes and was not individually picked out for investment. Besides the Texas Permanent School Fund and the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System, several other state retirement programs are expected to benefit from as far afield as California, New York, Arizona, and Kentucky. IIPR is still considered a good buy with many institutional investors and hedge fund managers opting to increase their stakes in the company.
Texas and Tennessee stand out in the field of these investors as they have strongly opposed any attempts to legalize even medical marijuana in their states. That means that many people that have legitimate health conditions that could benefit from cannabis use are being denied access to medication that could help ease or even cure their conditions. Even where it would result in a reduction in opiate use and abuse, the leadership and lawmakers seem to hold unreasonably steadfast to outdated views. They, however, do not seem as stubborn in pocketing the financial dividends derived from the same cannabis use in other states. An illuminating example of ‘do as I say, not as I do’ that their voters should take note of and make their voices heard.