Baker Institute experts available to comment on Houston’s first marijuana investment conference Neill: There is an appetite for changing marijuana laws in Texas
HOUSTON – (Aug. 28, 2014) – Some form of marijuana use is now legal in 35 states and the District of Columbia, with Washington and Colorado being the first two states to fully legalize recreational use of the drug. On Sept. 8, Houston will host one of the nation’s first Marijuana Investment Conferences at the Westin Memorial City Hotel to respond to the growing interest in investments in the legalized marijuana industry and the increasing demand for growth capital for legal businesses, according to conference organizers.
Katharine Neill, the Alfred C. Glassell III Postdoctoral Fellow in Drug Policy at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, said that having such an event take place in Texas despite the fact that all forms of marijuana use remain illegal under state law suggests there is an appetite for change. Neill plans to attend the conference with Dru Stevenson, a contributing Baker Institute scholar in drug policy and law professor and the Helen and Harry Hutchins Research Professor at South Texas College of Law (STCL). Both are available to comment on the state of marijuana legalization nationwide and the prospects in Texas.
“Recent polls indicate that a majority of Texans now support marijuana legalization, indicating that the issue has gained traction even in traditionally conservative states,” Neill said. “If the adage that ‘As goes Texas, so does the nation’ has any truth to it, then support for marijuana legalization in the Lone Star State should be reason for optimism among legalization advocates.”
Neill underscored that although a majority of Americans now support marijuana legalization and several other states are contemplating plans to legalize or decriminalize marijuana, the drug is still banned by federal law. “The incongruence of federal and state law raises a number of policy issues, further complicating the rollout of fledgling legalization initiatives in the states,” she said. “For example, Colorado has been cautious in restricting the amount of marijuana out-of-staters can purchase and has prohibited nonstate residents from investing in Colorado marijuana businesses in order to avoid inciting the anger of the federal government.”
Neill said marijuana businesses face other challenges as well. “One major issue is that banks still do not want to give accounts to marijuana merchants out of fear of federal fines or charges of money laundering,” she said. “This forces marijuana businesses to make all transactions in cash, an inconvenience that also poses a security risk as it makes them easy targets for robbery. Another issue is that while marijuana businesses pay taxes to all levels of government, they do not receive the usual federal tax breaks granted to small businesses because they are considered illegal.”
Following the conference, the Baker Institute, in partnership with STCL, will explore some of the issues highlighted at the Marijuana Investment Conference in a special Baker Institute “Viewpoints” series.
Founded in 1993, Rice University’s Baker Institute ranks among the top 15 university-affiliated think tanks in the world. As a premier nonpartisan think tank, the institute conducts research on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy. The institute’s strong track record of achievement reflects the work of its endowed fellows, Rice University faculty scholars and staff, coupled with its outreach to the Rice student body through fellow-taught classes — including a public policy course — and student leadership and internship programs. Learn more about the institute at www.bakerinstitute.org or on the institute’s blog, http://blogs.chron.com/bakerblog.