Free Minds & Free Markets

Expect Fully Legal Weed Within 5 Years, Says Former Top Pharma Lobbyist and Congressman Billy Tauzin

He has been a Democrat, a Republican, a lobbyist, and a cancer survivor. Now he wants to end the war on weed.

With medical and recreational marijuana legalization spreading across the country, Reason attended the Cannabis World Congress and Business Exposition in New York City to get a sense of where things are headed with commercialized weed and weed-related products.

We encountered retired NFL greats Leonard Marshall and Christian "Nigerian Nightmare" Okoye promoting non-psychoactive CBD oil, which they say has replaced the opioids they once needed to dull their pain; we sampled cold-brewed coffee infused with a marijuana extract that won't get you stoned but still makes for a calmer morning; we learned why candy is the go-to product for edibles; and we talked to Kate Bell, legislative counsel at the Marijuana Policy Project, about going to states where pot is legal to fight for laws that clear away the criminal records of nonviolent drug offenders.

But by far the most vision-inducing part of the conference was keynote speaker Billy Tauzin. He's a former conservative congressman from Louisiana who went on to head up PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry's massive lobbying group. Now he works for LenitivLabs, a medical cannabis company founded by TV host, multiple sclerosis sufferer, and longtime legalization advocate Montel Williams. Tauzin himself survived a life-threatening bout with cancer and now says he wishes he could have smoked weed to ease his pain.

Christian Okoye Photo Credit: Rob Tringali Sports Chrome/Newscom

Bill Tauzin Photo Credits: Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Newscom, Tom Williams/Roll Call Photos/Newscom

Marijuana flag Photo Credit: Randall Benton/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom

Trump Signs Right to Try Photo Credit: Chris Kleponis/CNP/AdMedia/Newscom

Cory Gardner Photo Credit: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Newscom

Trump Pointing Photo Credit: Cheriss MayCreditCheriss May/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Music Credits: "Reefer Man" by Cab Calloway, 1932, Public Domain.

Produced by Jim Epstein and Nick Gillespie.

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  • Sevo||

    We have 'fully legal' weed in CA. And a thriving black market besides.
    'Fully legal' = 'fully regulated and loaded with all sorts of fees and restrictions'.

  • Ecoli||

    This is true.

    Pot used to be controlled by the southern cartels, and a few independents. Now pot it controlled by the state legislative cartels. Not really much different.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Not really much different.

    They're no longer going to be throwing people in prison for the "crime" of having an ounce in their possession. I'd say that's a big fucking difference.

  • Zeb||

    The state's racket is much more mature and stable. They have to murder far fewer people.

  • Citizen X||

    They still have to murder SOME people, of course. Just not as many.

  • Árboles de la Barranca||

    They will make it up with SWAT raids, prosecutions, and imprisonment for illegal possession and sale of plastic straws.

  • Rachel44||


    I'm making $40 a hour telecommuting. I was stunned when my neighbor revealed to me she was averaging $120 however I perceive how it functions now. I feel so much opportunity now that I'm my own particular supervisor. This is my main thing...

  • Brandybuck||

    To many progressives, pot legalization is just about new tax revenues they can use to build socially aware gender-neutral bullet trains to nowhere. They don't care about the legalization itself because as white coastal elites they have all the access to pot they want without any of the downsides that apply to minorities or red state whites.

  • Robert||

    "Bullet trains to nowhere" made me envision people getting aboard, zooming off & disappearing forever.

  • 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed||

    Ah, the "Pennsylvania model"

  • texexpatriate||

    Until the Federal laws regarding marijuana are changed your "fully legal" weed is in fact illegal, just as illegal as your establishment of sanctuary cities and a sanctuary state. I do not argue that the Federal laws regarding marijuana are good, just that they exist, and agree they should be turned around. However, your state laws regarding immigration and protection for illegal aliens are also illegal and should not be turned around---BECAUSE they have a negative impact on the rest of the nation. The nation has a right to protect its borders, and you Californians are subverting that right, violating a good Federal law, and endangering the nation.

  • Sevo||

    " Californians..."
    You got the wrong guy here...

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Look at what you've done Sevo.

  • Ecoli||

    The feds have the legal authority to enforce immigration laws. The feds have no such authority (except that they have big guns and lot of them) to prohibit cannabis.

  • Antilles||

    Finally visited one of California's recreational weed shops. Bought two Rove vape cartridges for a total of $110. When they added the cost of the taxes (sales + state weed tax + city weed tax) the final cost was $146! Will be buying from the black market from now on.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    In California, doesn't 'fully loade with all sorts of fees and restrictions' also apply to bubblegum?

  • Ecoli||

    Empathy for the suffering of others is admirable. Empathy for yourself: not so much.

  • SoCal Deathmarch||


    Fuck Off

  • BenjaminTheDonkey||

    How many cases of cirrhosis or opiate overdose will occur as a result of the 5 year delay?

  • Don't look at me.||

    How many kids get tossed in jail?

  • Citizen X||

    Hey, you have to break a few eggs to make... whatever it is the drug warriors are making. Not an omelet, more like yolk and albumen just everywhere.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Hey, you have to break a few eggs to make... whatever it is the drug warriors are making.

    A total mess?

  • Citizen X||

    Yes, that's what i said in the sentence after the one you quoted.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    They still will call it an omelet.

  • Rich||

    Expect Fully Legal Weed Within 5 Years

    "Expect Fully Demonized Weed Within 4 Years"

  • Aloysious||

    If we get fully legal weedz, the only thing we'll have left is Mexicans and the butt secks.

  • Citizen X||

    I have great faith that this will be no limitation to the vociferousness of libertarians.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    I thought the butt secks was already legal. Didn't the SC strike down sodomy laws in Lawrence v Texas?

  • Zeb||

    Yes, but we all have to have more of it, both giving and receiving, before we can truly achieve libertopia.

  • Aloysious||

    ^+1 gets it.

  • Juice||

    5 years is a long time when you're waiting.

  • Eidde||

    I hate to say it, but the proggy states are the pioneers, they're going to be designating official state bongs and having the lieutenant governor preside at Hempfests while Alabama is locking people up for dealing in the mariwanner.

  • Juice||

    Pro tip: don't live in Alabama.

  • Sevo||

    "I hate to say it, but the proggy states are the pioneers,..."
    Not as clear-cut as it seems:
    Oh, and guess which governor made a ass of himself as follows:
    "The problem with anything, a certain amount is OK. But there is a tendency to go to extremes," he said in a wide-ranging interview aired Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." "And all of a sudden, if there's advertising and legitimacy, how many people can get stoned and still have a [...] great nation?"

  • Eidde||

    Jerry Brown has an unfair advantage since he acts stoned anyway, whether he smokes weed or not.

  • texexpatriate||

    Here's another example of Federal overreach from years past. There was never any rational or legal basis for the Federal outlawing of marijuana. At risk of boring everyone, the Federal government wrongly, illegally, and intrusively attacked and adopted the sovereignty of the states over the Federal government in 1868 when the GOP enacted through chicanery a 14th Amendment that it could not get ratified by the states. The GOP Federal government did that by removing state electors and replacing them with stand-ins who would vote the way the GOP wished. That amendment "transferred" sovereignty of the states to sovereignty of the Federal government. All manner of illegal, unconstitutional, and intrusive laws have been passed by congresses ever since in its name. Under the original constitution the State of California, for example, or any "sanctuary state or city," could not pass such immigration laws as they wish to do today because immigration has a harmful impact on the entire nation. But they could individually pass any number of other laws that are today thought to be Federal business such as marijuana laws.

  • ||

    the Federal government wrongly, illegally, and intrusively attacked and adopted the sovereignty of the states over the Federal government in 1868 when the GOP enacted through chicanery a 14th Amendment that it could not get ratified by the states

    Actually, we usually date that to the "Nullification Crisis" of 1832-33 when SC decided it didn't need to heed a tariff enacted by the Federal Government.

    Plenty of "illegal, unconstitutional, and intrusive laws have been passed by congresses" since the Founding. The Fugitive Slave Act comes to mind, as an example, or the Alien and Sedition Acts.

    immigration has a harmful impact on the entire nation

    [citation needed]

  • gormadoc||

    Under the original constitution the State of California, for example, or any "sanctuary state or city," could not pass such immigration laws as they wish to do today because immigration has a harmful impact on the entire nation.

    They're not passing laws on how immigration works, they're just saying "no, the state/city government cannot be co-opted by the Federal Government to pursue Federal policy." You know, the same damn reason we shouldn't have a wide variety of laws, such as a national minimum drinking age, many of our highway laws, Medicare/Medicaid expansion, etc.

    California shooting themselves in the foot repeatedly has a harmful impact on the entire nation; they are still allowed to do so. It's a profoundly Socialist worldview that says that we can prevent people or smaller groups of people from doing something because it has negative externalities. You know, like cap and trade or high taxes.

  • Sevo||

    "...immigration has a harmful impact on the entire nation...."

    Yep, those Amerindians didn't toss the Pilgrims back in the ocean and look what happened to the neighborhood!
    A mess, I tell ya!

  • Dillinger||

    >>fully legal

    you misspelled "taxed like a mo'fo" ...

  • Antilles||

    Was just hit with a 33% tax when I recently purchased already-overpriced weed in California. I won't do that again.

  • Dillinger||

    street prices *have* dropped considerably...shhhhhhhhh

  • Jerryskids||

    So this guy's a former Congressman and a lobbyist, an insider, a crony capitalist who's taken a spin through the revolving door, is he just guessing that marijuana's on a path toward legalization or does he know who's been bought off and who's got a price tag and can do the math? Sad to say, politics isn't about doing what's right so much as it is doing what pays and the trick is figuring out how to make the right thing pay.

  • IceTrey||

    I think sooner. The states do not want to take taxes in cash. California is already looking at a seperate banking system.

  • mysmartstuffs||

    The only "war on weed" is over who gets to hoard all the tax revenue. Tobacco doesn't cause cancer, alcohol doesn't cause DUI deaths and alcoholism, and pot is healthy, safe, and natural... so long as it's taxable.

  • gordo53||

    It will be much longer than five years for the marijuana marketplace to mature and stabilize. Right now the political class is writing regulations as fast as they can giving them tacit control over the industry and, of course, stuffing their pockets with cash. Colorado is actually in the process of closing down dispensaries for "violations". This is reducing competition and insuring that high prices will continue. In Colorado, it is still true that some of the best weed at the best price is black market. And as long as the feds have pot as a schedule 1 drug, retailers will pay absurd federal taxes and continue to endure problems with banks and credit card companies. Change is coming, but at a very slow pace as the political class will be squeezing every dollar out of the industry that they can.

  • TuteeHUB||

    5 years i think this is a very long time period when you're waiting.

  • TGoodchild||

    Let's face it, the only people for whom open and notorious marijuana availability will be a slippery slope will be the deplorables, the poor, the disenfranchised, and often our inner-city minorities - in other words, sub-populations the plight of whom can be considered bricks in the pavement to Libertopia.

  • Widhalm19||

    Oh Joy! Americans can now be stoned 24 / 7 / 365. What a great country .... never-mind all those other pesky social problems because smoking pot will be legal. All our problems are over.


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