Data: Crackdown on legal marijuana industry would cost thousands of jobs, billions in revenue

DENVER – White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s Thursday statements that the Department of Justice may crack down on states with legal recreational marijuana could lead to far-ranging effects on the burgeoning industry should they hold any water.

A Forbes report based on data from New Frontier Data says that if the legal marijuana market continues to grow unimpeded by the federal government, the industry would create more jobs than the manufacturing industry by 2020.

The New Frontier Data based its estimates on a Colorado-funded study that the state commissioned the Marijuana Policy Group to perform.

The New Frontier Data report projects that more than 250,000 jobs would be created by 2020 in the marijuana industry. When compared to Bureau of Labor statistics that say more than 800,000 manufacturing jobs will disappear by 2024.

Colorado sold more than $1.3 billion in recreational and medical marijuana in 2016, which brought in just under $200 million in tax revenue, which is funneled primarily to public school projects and public health and safety initiatives.

The Marijuana Industry Group, a leading marijuana business and trade association, estimates that 20,000 jobs are directly tied to Colorado’s industry and that it has an economic impact of "over $3 billion," according to its executive direct, Kristi Kelly.

Denver City Council President tweeted directly at President Donald Trump Friday afternoon with estimates that were slightly lower than Kelly's, but accentuated the vast impact of cannabis in Colorado.

The New Frontier Data report says the legal marijuana market was worth an estimated $7.2 billion last year -- $4.7 billion came from medical marijuana sales and $2.6 billion came from recreational sales.

But the report says that by 2020, the legal marijuana market will be worth an estimated $24.5 billion when combining medical and recreational sales.

Kelly has told Denver7 that the dismantling of the legal market in Colorado would likely cause a recession in the state.

Also published Thursday, the same day Spicer made his comments, was a Quinnipiac poll that showed 71 percent of people think the government should not enforce federal laws in states where its use is already legal, such as Colorado.

The majority of Republicans (55 percent), Democrats (80 percent) and independents (72 percent) polled said there should be no federal crackdown.

In the same poll, 59 percent of people said they thought marijuana should be legalized nationwide, and 93 percent of people said doctors should be able to prescribe adults medical marijuana.

The reaction from the marijuana industry and politicians supporting the legal industry was swift Thursday, as all argued that legal marijuana was a states’ rights issue that shouldn’t be handled by the federal government.

Annie Skinner, the communications director for the Colorado Office of the Attorney General, told Denver7 that Spicer’s comments were “general in nature” and that the office wouldn’t “be able to chart a legal course of action for Colorado” until U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice issue an official position on the matter.

Neither Sessions nor the DOJ have offered clarification on Spicer’s comments thus far.

The Obama administration allowed states to operate medical and recreational marijuana business without much federal intervention, despite the plant still being classified as a Schedule I drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment prohibits the Justice Department from interfering with state medical marijuana laws. It was first introduced in 2003, but did not become law until December 2014.

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