Marijuana In New Mexico Gets Big Boost from Ex-Governor

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Former Governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson has officially thrown his hat into the emerging ring of cannabis start-ups.

"Any time a former governor gets involved in a controversial topic it lends credibility regardless of party affiliation," said Aaron Houston, political strategist with Weedmaps.com.

Johnson was reportedly named the CEO of a Nevada-based company called Cannabis Sativa, which will produce cannabis oils for epileptic children and cough drop-like products for recreational use.

"It's yet another indication that a lot of different people are getting involved in this business," Houston told MainStreet.

The Republican libertarian's support of legalization is hardly new. He ran for president on a legalization platform in 2012, claiming he would pardon every person incarcerated for pot possession if elected and openly spoke about his own use during the campaign.

"I don't think Gary's position will sway Republicans," said Houston. "The greater indication of Republications being on board with marijuana legalization is that 49 House Republicans voted in favor of protecting 33 medical marijuana states from DEA harassment."

The amendment forbids the use of federal funds to interfere with state legal medical cannabis programs.

"It has passed the very conservative House but needs to pass the senate as well and be attached to the final appropriations bill to go into effect," said Taylor West, deputy director with the National Cannabis Industry Assocation. "Two years ago that same amendment came up for a vote and lost by 99 in the House. This year it passed by 30, so that's a huge turnaround."

Houston worked directly with Johnson to lobby Republicans with the federalism argument, which centers around a belief that the government should stay out of the way of state policy.

"That has played out clearly in the cannabis world with states deciding that prohibition is ridiculous," West told MainStreet. "In states like Colorado and Washington it makes more sense to legalize, regulate and tax the product than to force into the underground."

Potential new markets include the state of Illinois, which has legalized medical marijuana and is in the midst of creating regulation as well as the state of Florida, which will vote on the legalization of medical marijuana in November.

"In the past, people thought of marijuana votes as an issue only liberal members of Congress would get behind but when we're talking about the states right to establish their own policy that opens up a lot of doors," West said.

--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet

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