White working-class voters from the Rust Belt overwhelmingly came out for Trump in last year’s election on the promise that he would bring back high-paying manufacturing jobs lost to automation and overseas labor. At the very least economic anxiety masked a cultural bias that fueled a desire for change after eight years of Democratic leadership that left rural America yearning for a country that never existed.
That yearning, legitimized by media outlets as unabashed anger at a broken economic system became fodder for a cacophony of small-town human interest pieces exploring the psychology of Trump’s electorate.
"I was only bringing home $960 a month," Angelica West, a 28-year-old mother of three who gave up on the manufacturing industry (or it gave up on her depending on how you frame the story) told CNN in one such article last March. "Daycare alone was almost $400 to enroll my kids in."
Angelica, unable to support her family on such a menial wage moved back home with her mother while attempting to switch careers. She sees Trump as an “action president” who will end NAFTA and restore the manufacturing sector to its former glory.
"I'm not racist at all, but I do believe in building a border [wall] to protect our country," West told CNN.
An Obvious Solution
According to a new study from one of the cannabis industry’s premier data analytics firms, New Frontier Data, removing the federal prohibition on marijuana would create 1 million new jobs in the United States over the next decade. A closer look at the numbers shows that the results of federal legalization would be quite staggering. The immediate impact would be 782,000 jobs created today, across every sector of the industry.
Furthermore, the study concludes that legalizing cannabis across the country would bring in an estimated $132 billion in tax revenue. For a country that is always trying to put Medicare, Social Security, and the rest of the social safety net on the chopping block, that would be a handy revenue stream right there.
“More than 800,000 manufacturing jobs are expected to vanish by 2024,” remarked Giadha Aguirre DeCarcer, Founder, and CEO of New Frontier Data in a short video clip introducing the study. “Based on our own projections, more than 283000 jobs will be created by the legal cannabis industry by 2020.”
At the state level, legalized cannabis is already having an impact. According to an earlier version of the study performed in March, Colorado’s recreational market has helped to create 18,000 jobs in the state. The bulk of those jobs, almost 13,000, are full-time positions directly in the industry. Even more interesting are the ancillary jobs popping up around Colorado’s adult-use market, with many of them “created by the economic activity spurred by legalization.”
So what stops the administration from logging such an easy political win? And what prevents supporters from lobbying for it?
“Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
Last week U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions took a step backward by rescinding an Obama-era policy, known colloquially as the “Cole memo” which allowed states that have legalized cannabis to operate without interference from the federal government. The move angered many pro-cannabis supporters on both sides of the aisle.
In light of the data from New Frontier, the Justice Department’s full-frontal attack on cannabis takes on a whole new meaning, especially for supporters of the president.
Beyond the hypocritical stance on states rights, Republicans “economic anxiety” will be put to the test. A push for federal legalization of marijuana in the wake of Session’s policy announcement is the perfect opportunity to fight for gainful employment - assuming they want it.
According to a recent article in The Cannabist, Gallup ran a poll showing that 51 percent of conservatives came down in favor of cannabis legalization. It was the first time a plurality showed supported for prohibition repeal.
Even when the GOP faithful know that Sessions policy change will be dangerous for the economy, they still cannot bring themselves to break their unwavering support for the president. Zac Mercauto of Maine is one of those voters.
“I believe it’s going to take a hit at medical marijuana and the industry as a whole here in Maine,” Mercauto said in an interview with The Cannabist. “It’s disappointing to see him take that stab at the industry. And I guarantee you all the tax money the state of Maine from medical marijuana really helps people all around.”
But, he also told The Cannabist, he is still a big fan of the president.
There’s Always Canada
Unlike their less progressive neighbor down south, Canada plans to legalize cannabis nationwide come this summer. Just like Colorado, with legalization comes plenty of new jobs.
According to an article in Marijuana Business Daily, over the next few years, Canada could add as many as 150,000 jobs due to the burgeoning adult-use market. These are high-level jobs, some of them with as much as six-figure salaries. In fact, hiring has already ramped up ahead of legalization as the industry does all it can to prepare for next summer.
“I expect employment in this sector to increase extremely rapidly over the next 12 to 24 months.” Cam Battley, Chief Corporate Officer of Aurora Cannabis (TSX:ACB), told Marijuana Business Daily in an interview.
In the meantime, while Canada experiences unprecedented job growth, the U.S., under the reign of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is quickly falling behind.
“I don’t want to be out there cheerleading this policy, because it’s a net negative for the cannabis industry in general, but from a purely selfish Canadian perspective, it just prolongs the head start that we have,” Aaron Salz, a cannabis investment advisor and founder of Stoic Advisory Inc. told Vice News in an interview.
Aurora’s Battley spoke in that same interview, telling Vice News, “And we can anticipate at least in the short-term that this could hinder U.S. cannabis [businesses],”
“I want my kids to have jobs.”
To be fair, New Frontier’s study came out before the Republicans gutted the tax system in the U.S., and their numbers were based on a 35 percent tax rate. The fact remains however that legalized marijuana is a net benefit for the U.S. economy. But it sits on the precipice of an administration bent on destroying the norms of governing, and a group of supporters masking their true intentions.
"I want my kids to have a future. I want my kids to have jobs,"61-year-old Ford factory worker and Trump voter Sal Moceri told CNN last March.
That remains to be seen.