With support for marijuana legalization at an all-time high, hundreds of key players are making a difference in the way the issue is moving forward. Here is a list compiled by John Hudak of Brookings Institution on who might play an essential role in the future of marijuana industry:
- Sheldon Adelson
Billionaire Sheldon Adelson might be known as one of the richest men in America, but he is also instrumental in the failure of Florida’s 2014 medical marijuana initiative. Sources say that he donated as much as $5 million or 85 percent of the funds for the opposition of the initiative.
Since public opinion is rapidly changing against marijuana, Adelson’s goal of maintaining prohibition may be at risk. However, his funding may have a substantial effect on the future of cannabis ballot initiatives.
- Ricardo Baca
Ricardo Baca is the editor of “The Cannabist,” an extension of the “Denver Post” that is currently one of the most important resources when it comes to marijuana news and opinion. Since “The Cannabist” is America’s first mainstream media organization devoted to covering the marijuana beat, it will surely have an effect on marijuana policy over time.
- Hillary Clinton
As the presumptive Democratic nominee for the 2016 presidential elections, Hillary Clinton can shape her party’s position on pot policy. She has signaled her support to the medical marijuana community as well as to the rights of states to legalize recreational marijuana. Her position will certainly be an important part of the legal marijuana conversation.
- Cynthia Franklin
Cynthia Franklin is set to lead and oversee the construction of Alaska’s marijuana regulatory system, which faces a lot of challenges because of the sheer amount of federal land in the state and unique local control policies in rural areas. Franklin will play a critical role in the Marijuana Control Board, helping design and implement marijuana regulations that might help inform future policy making.
- Loretta Lynch
US Attorney General designee Loretta Lynch has expressed her opposition to legal marijuana during her confirmation hearings. With the possibility of her taking the helm at the Department of Justice, Lynch’s position will be extremely influential when it comes to law enforcement.
- Vivek Murthy
America’s surgeon general Vivek Murthy said that he supports expanded research on medical marijuana, given its medical value for a variety of conditions. Dr. Murthy’s views clearly show that the medical community has progressive views when it comes to medical marijuana, thus encouraging broader research and changes to public policy in facilitating such studies.
- Rob Patridge
As the chair of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), Rob Patridge is the state’s top marijuana regulator who has helped develop the legal and regulatory system for the state. The OLCC has organized statewide tours, transparent online communication systems, and official meetings and hearings online in order to keep the public informed. Patridge is also overseeing the implementation of recreational marijuana in Oregon while also continuing reforms for its medical marijuana program. His efforts may have a substantial influence on the future of marijuana policy in other states.
- Rand Paul
US Senator and 2016 presidential candidate Rand Paul is one of the strongest proponents of reform in the Republican Party. He co-authored the CARERS Act, one of the boldest pro-medical marijuana bills. He plays an important role in showing his party the impact of marijuana policy, serving as a model for both Republicans and Democrats to find effective ways to talk about cannabis.
- Dan Riffle
Dan Riffle is the Director of Federal Programs at Marijuana Policy Project, making him one of the nation’s pro-legalization lobbyists. He has helped pass the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment that restricts the Department of Justice’s enforcement activity around medical marijuana. With more and more legislators leaning towards marijuana policy reform, lobbyists like Riffle will be at the forefront of these efforts.
- Milton Romani
After legalizing recreational marijuana in 2013, Uruguay faced some difficulties in cultivating a legal and regulatory system. Milton Romani, Secretary-General of Uruguay’s National Drug Council, has dealt with these challenges, leading the efforts to administer the first legal recreational marijuana system in Latin America. Hence, Romani will not only influence marijuana policy in Uruguay, but also the rest of Latin America as well.
- Kevin Sabet
As the president and CEO of Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana), Kevin Sabet is one of the country’s highest-profile anti-legalization advocates. His group opposes recreational marijuana and remains skeptical of smoked medical marijuana, although he shares some of the same concerns as cannabis legalization advocates, like user vilification and criminal justice issues.
- Jacob Sullum
As senior editor of “Reason,” multi-awarded and nationally-syndicated journalist Jacob Sullum is at the forefront of journalism regarding marijuana policy and politics. He has written a comprehensive cannabis book titled, “Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use” that critically examines marijuana issues on both the state and national level. While he is largely supportive of legalization efforts, he also offers highly critical analyses on both sides of the debate. His writing will certainly influence the future of marijuana.
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