Cannabis can be Trump's secret weapon in trade war and election

Cannabis can be Trump's secret weapon in trade war and election
© Getty Images

We all know how some businesses — both big and small and specifically farmers — are suffering because of the president's ongoing tariff dispute with China. 

Recently, China even hinted that it could stop access to certain natural materials that are used in the manufacturing of computer chips and other items that are critical to the U.S. technology industry. That's a concern. But the president may also have his own natural material that could help him counter China’s latest maneuver. 

It’s a $60 billion weapon and there are countless entrepreneurs waiting for him to use it.

ADVERTISEMENT

$60 billion is the estimated size of the U.S. cannabis market expected by 2023, according to a new study by an industry research group. How big of a number is that? Well, already, the sales of marijuana are higher than Taco Bell's annual U.S. revenues.

In Colorado, there are more marijuana dispensaries than McDonalds and Starbucks. It’s not all fun and games either. At least one-in-five Americans are using cannabis to help with the treatment of pain, and many experts agree that the potential medical uses of cannabis are significant.

The $60 billion is, by many accounts, a low estimate. Why? Because half of the U.S. still hasn’t fully legalized cannabis, and the federal government’s unwillingness to relax its rules that classify it as a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance keeps many businesses and financial firms from joining the party.

So right now, while the feds turn a blind eye, the billions in tax revenues earned from the cannabis industry aren’t going to the U.S. Treasury. They’re going to the states. 

Recently, there’s been a lot of debate at the FDA about relaxing those rules. But now, with the China trade escalating and threatening a potential recession in advance of an election year, why should the president wait? Just think of the economic and political impact that legalizing it would have for businesses and farmers across the country.

ADVERTISEMENT

For example, the federal government would have an entirely new stream of tax revenue, and let's face it: If cigarette smokers are crazy enough to pay $15 a pack (most going to taxes), I bet most weed smokers aren’t going to put up much of a fight either.

Those taxes could be earmarked toward helping small farmers and small businesses that have been most impacted by the current tariff battle. When that battle eventually ends, I'm pretty sure the government will figure out another good use for the money.

The impact on farming, aside from any subsidies, could also be substantial. As I’ve written before, I’m sure some farmers are kicking themselves for staking their entire livelihoods on selling their product to one very large (and unreliable) customer in Asia, particularly when an incoming president has threatened trade action for years. Cannabis is a perfect way to diversify.

"As farmers, we’re all tired of trying to maintain profitability with current commodity prices and we’re trying to diversify to keep up in today’s market," J.F. Foster, a Missouri farmer told the Farm Journal a few years before Trump became President TrumpDonald John TrumpGiuliani says he is unaware of reported federal investigation Louisiana's Democratic governor forced into runoff Lawmakers focus their ire on NBA, not China MORE. "Indoors or outdoors, farming heads should be turning at the marijuana opportunity.”

With federal clearance — and even a little financial assistance — a good portion of those soybeans can be replaced by cannabis to feed the ever-growing demand around the world. It’s not like it’s not already being done by a few entrepreneurs under the radar.

“You find marijuana in corn fields pretty much every year," one Canadian farmer who grows both corn and soybeans told United Press International. "It's pretty common around the county. Everybody runs across it."

Obviously, the de-regulation of cannabis would unleash and expand markets for accessories, farming equipment, specialized technology, financial services, transportation and all the other business-making opportunities that would provide jobs, economic security and even more tax revenues for the federal coffers.

But here’s the best part: What better way for our president — the ultimate divider — to actually bring our country together? Legalizing marijuana at the federal level would be a brilliant political move in an election year where every vote will matter. It would be applauded by farmers in the president’s base and even young voters who may be open to changing their opinion.

So what do you say, President Trump? With one quick signature on an executive order, you can arm yourself with a powerful weapon to help you win this China trade war, help entrepreneurs, farmers and businesses across the country realize their economic dreams and reach out to a bunch of new potential supporters that may never have considered voting for you. All of that sir, will certainly help "Make America Great Again."

Gene Marks is founder of The Marks Group, a small-business consulting firm. He has written on economic and financial issues for The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Guardian. He also frequently appears on CNBC, Fox Business and MSNBC. Follow him on Twitter: @genemarks.