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What are the biggest obstacles facing the legalization of marijuana?

Marijuana legalization won big in 2016, with sales hitting an all-time high of $6.7 billion. In addition, eight more states voted "yes" in favor of legalization - making that more than half of the states legalizing marijuana for either medical or recreational use.

Yet even if 60% of the country's adult population thinks marijuana shouldn't be illegal at a federal level, there are still some factors that hinder its legalization.

So we sought out some of the most respected experts in the industry and asked what they think were the obstacles in marijuana legalization. Here's what they had to say:

Royal Queen SeedsNo developed economic structure, lack of significant research, and banking issues

Marijuana legalization has come a long way in three years - but many challenges to full legitimacy still remain.

Three years after Colorado and Washington State began to fundamentally move the goalposts on the legalization of marijuana, the world looks very different. That said, as much as things change, there are still big challenges ahead for the legalization camp just about everywhere.

These include:

Full Legalization: There has yet to be a developed powerhouse of an economy to fully legalize the drug and integrate it into commercial pipelines (medically or recreationally) as “just another” product. Canada appears to be the first western country to fully legalize the drug this year. Germany just became the first country in the world to begin to integrate the drug into its mainstream medical infrastructure and insurance coverage.

More research: Countries outside of Israel so far have not committed significant resources to research the medical impact of the drug. In the United States and in fact every country except Germany, medical trials have been hindered by the current classification of marijuana as having no “medical efficacy”.

Banking: While this is primarily an issue in the U.S. because of the federal classification of the drug, that is still a large and influential market. As of now, the multi-billion dollar industry still has to do business largely in cash.

Royal Queen Seeds one of the top cannabis seed breeders with several decades of experience that gave them world-wide recognition. Their products are all hand-picked; quality tested all organic items which are vacuum pack with highly resistance packages making it fresh in good yield and in pleasant flavor. Visit their Facebook page, /RQSeeds/.

Ohio CannabisLack of education about the effectivity of cannabis

I think continuing to push research to the forefront will stop the naysayers who think cannabis isn't effective.

We've discovered so much about what this plant is capable of these last 10 years that I think it's blown everyone's mind. And then that pushes us to the education.

When people understand something they're more comfortable and ok with it especially when they realize this plant is actually helping people and not hurting society the way it's been demonized.

Imagine where we'll be legally and research wise in another 10 years. We've just rediscovered the most amazing plant on this planet.

Johnny is the Mad Scientist & Wizard behind the curtain of OhioCannabis.com. He proudly handles OhioCannabis.com, the #1 Industry Insider & Lifestyle Brand for marijuana-related news. Visit their Facebook page: /ohioweedcom/.

Lee WeberMarijuana’s psychoactive effects

Advocates for legalization tend to downplay the way that THC affects memory, thought, concentration, time-depth perception, and coordinated movement.

However, when THC acts on cannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system it interferes with normal brain development (especially in teens) and function. Driving or operating machines while high on weed is dangerous!... and state or federal governments will need to weigh risks vs. benefits to public health when it comes to legalization.

Lee Weber is the editor of Addiction Blog, a site that tackles about addiction treatment. She manages the blog whose contributors are industry leaders who are also interested in the field. Follow their page on Facebook: /Addiction-blog/.

Dinafem SeedsSuspicion from the Pharma industry and ideological resistance

From our point of view it’s just a matter of time that cannabis get to legalized all over the world. Something it’s already changing and the therapeutical use is going to lead the path to legalization. Cannabis has major therapeutic potential, which, for legal reasons, has not been completely researched and exploited. Since 1980, thanks to Raphael Mechoulam, we have known that cannabis has very powerful antiepileptic effects, and with minimum side effects if we compare it with other types of medications that have regularly been used to treat this disease. Yet, its therapeutic potential has not been fully tapped.

In recent years there has been a snowball effect, with information and the use of therapeutic cannabis picking up steam. There have been very concrete initiatives in some places, such as the medical cannabis law approved in California in 1996, and the case of Bedrocan in Holland. This phenomenon later spread to other countries. Israel is a good example, where there has been a very rapid and professional development of medical cannabis, aimed at meeting the country's internal needs. This information, at a certain point in time, reached the mass media, and ever since it has no longer been considered something that is censurable or legally complicated.

Italy, for example, in spite of having quite strict legislation governing recreational cannabis, has witnessed a very speedy and pragmatic implementation of medical cannabis, partly thanks to the fact that it has its own infrastructure, consisting of a military laboratory, capable of carrying out cultivation. In this regard Italy has joined a multitude of countries that have legalised the medical use of cannabis. Another good example is Canada, the first country in the G8 to legalise it at the federal level, unlike in the United States, where only some states have lifted the ban on it. Germany is also taking steps towards authorisation, as is Uruguay, Holland, Israel and Colombia. Basically, we can already speak of an international wave of legal frameworks sanctioning the use of therapeutic cannabis.

Of course things won’t be easy. There are many actors interested in cannabis not being legalized for different reasons, economical or even ideological. The Pharma industry looks at cannabis with suspicion but at the same time, the number of companies that are investing on research related with the potential benefits of cannabis to treat some illnesses is increasing. And, as said before, the ideological resistance will weaken eventually thanks to the therapeutic benefits.

Professor OG is the founder of Dinafem and leads its breeders team. He’s been working, researching and experimenting with cannabis for the last 25 years with his passion for botanics and nature, together with his innate curiosity, took him, at a very young age to Netherlands and London where he learnt most of the techniques he would later use to develop his genetics. Follow his work for autoflowering strains, CBD rich genetics as Dinafem being the original creator of world-renowned feminized cannabis seeds such as CriticalMoby Dick and Original Amnesia. Visit them on: Twitter, @DinafemEn, Facebook, /dinafemseedsofficial/ and Instagram, /dinafemseedsofficial/.

Christopher TitmussPersistent criticism of the International Narcotics Control Board

Marijuana has been widely used in various spiritual and religious traditions of the East and elsewhere for literally thousands of years. In these ceremonies, the participants engage in a sharing together of the ritual of inhaling the smoke of marijuana for its calming and healing influence through the whole mind-body structure.

Sitting in a circle together, these small collectives share this religious experience to bring about an empathetic cohesion through inner peace and thoughtful reflections.

Such ceremonies belong to a variety of cultures, tribes and indigenous communities who appreciate and enjoy the calming beneficial influence of the marijuana plant. The personal and social benefits of marijuana have long been recognised in these kinds of communities. The hippy and artistic communities in 1960’s began to adopt a similar traditional approach around marijuana.

Furthermore, respect for this plant has been widely recognised for its therapeutic value since first discovered thousands of years ago. As a medicine, the marijuana plant enables those suffering with chronic pain, stress and anxiety to be able to live more comfortably with such painful impacts of unresolved health issues.

Complimentary doctors, healers and shamans, as well as spiritual teachers, yogis in certain traditions, and the wandering sadhus of India, have regularly employed marijuana for themselves and their followers in a variety of healing and consciousness raising programmes and ceremonies.

Numerous research into the beneficial influences of marijuana confirm again and again how effective the plant is for the healing process. The plant reduces fears, stress and tensions between the mind and body.

Marijuana is far from a wonder drug and no experienced user of the plant would claim the plant has such a status. But it does have a fine track record of making an important alleviation of physical/mental pain. We can no longer continue to keep ignoring the testimony of people who use marijuana.

The ancient traditions and more thoughtful progressive movements towards physical/ psychological health recognise its powerful benefits.

The cost of growing some plants at home is also negligible.

The Obstruction to the Legalisation of Marijuana

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) does everything in its power to obstruct the legalisation of marijuana for both recreational and medical application.

The Board demands that government worldwide block recreational use of marijuana and restrict medical use as much as possible. The INCB shows a virtual totalitarian approach to the use of marijuana.

The Board remains determined to stop the cultivation and use of drugs by individuals or groups sharing together the experience of marijuana. The Board supports the prosecution of those who grow the plant for their customers.

The International Narcotics Control Board and the pharmaceutical industry have made strenuous efforts to minimise the use of marijuana for patients.

The Board would rather keep its power than show a compassionate attitude to those in pain or those who enjoy marijuana.

The Board does not engage in a campaign to ban the most addictive and harmful drugs known to humankind, namely tobacco and alcohol. Alcohol and drug abuse leads to violence, despair and suicide.

Around 100,000 people every year in the United States die from the frequent use of alcohol with an average loss of life of around 30 years.

Around 500,000 people a year in the USA die from frequent use of smoking cigarettes. On average, people smoke cigarettes died 10 years earlier.

There is tremendous suffering for those who abuse alcohol and cigarettes not only for the individuals. Their families and friends witness the gradual decline into a long painful death of a loved one.

Yet alcohol and tobacco remains available on every high street, and more cheaply available at airports, while law enforcement agencies treat the use and cultivation of marijuana plants as a crime. The cartels who run the tobacco and alcohol industry work within the law.

The hypocrisy is breath-taking. The tobacco industry and alcohol industry spends billions of dollars per annum encouraging addiction to these harmful drugs which have no medical benefits whatsoever.

The number of people who have died from the use of marijuana for recreational purposes is zero.

The number of people whose lives have been shortened from recreational use of marijuana is zero.

Of course, people MUST remain mindful of the use of marijuana as it is a mind- altering influence. There is a vulnerability to an inner reaction through use of marijuana.

People can easily grow these plants at home. They can find a certain peace of mind through this simple plant that painkillers and antidepressants, with all their side-effects, cannot offer.

Fear of Use of Marijuana

Western governments, corporations, pharmaceutical industry, and powerful institutions demand that citizens work hard, work long hours and permit an escape through alcohol and tobacco. These institutions permit drugs to get to sleep, drugs to block pain and drugs to get back to work.

There is a fear that if marijuana becomes widely adopted millions of people, young and old, will take a more relaxed view towards life. They might to start questioning their lifestyle or about being a wage slave, stressed-out and living on a relentless treadmill.

Along with numerous other political concerns, marijuana could contribute to a spiritual revolution addressing work ethics, livelihood, natural medicine, a relaxed way of being and greater social cohesion and harmony. That’s the last thing that our political, economic masters want.

The pharmaceutical industry does not want the widespread use of marijuana as a medicine as it might well mean that patients can wean themselves off the addictive need for mind numbing tablets. Three members of the International Narcotics Control Board represent the medical, pharmacological and pharmaceutical industry.

Persistent Criticism of the INCB.

There has been persistent criticism of the International Narcotics Control Board for their determination to inhibit sovereign nation states from the implementation and legalisation of marijuana for medical and personal use.

INCB use its powerful influence to limit the cultivation, production, manufacture and use of marijuana and ensure punishment for those who cultivate, produce and manufacture marijuana.

There are courts worldwide who can still issue the death penalty for manufacturing the plant. There is a ruthless oppression of those who enjoy marijuana. US federal laws still technically permits the execution of its citizens if a citizen is found guilty of growing 60,000 marijuana plants. 0.7% of state prisoners remain incarcerated for use of marijuana. There are US prisoners serving sentences from five years to life imprisonment for having marijuana in their possession or growing small amounts of marijuana.

Of all the Western countries, the United States has become notorious worldwide for issuing Draconian prison sentences running into decades for those who grow marijuana without a licence. We witness a very slow softening of the approach running over decades. The police have far bigger issues to address in the violent/theft/corrupt ridden country from top to bottom of the USA.

Law enforcement agents in the USA and elsewhere spent far too much arresting prosecuting and imprisoning people, who grow marijuana or sell the plant on the streets. Often poor and unemployed, the dealers suffer the madness of dawn raids by armed police with battering rams who traumatise the families in a police search for the plant.

The International Narcotics Control Board needs to be disbanded. The INCB is out of tune with the needs of our time and unfit for purpose.

There is an urgent need to bring about the full legalisation of marijuana for personal and medical use. Ancient spiritual traditions and contemporary users know it is primarily a harmless plant from the natural world for relaxation of human beings.

A joint contributes to a relaxed, stress free approach to daily life.

Christopher Titmuss is a senior Dharma teacher in the West, offers retreats, facilitates pilgrimages and leads Dharma Gatherings worldwide. His teachings focus on insight meditation (vipassana), the expansive heart and enquiry into emptiness and liberation as well as posting his works on his site, Insight Meditation. You can follow him on Facebook, /christopher.titmuss/.

Kate McKee Simmons Education, banking, and getting legislation passed in Congress

This is a tricky question to answer because there are obstacles to legalization at the state level and at the federal level. As far as legalization at the state level, I think the biggest hindrance is education. I've found that the more people are educated about marijuana, especially the benefits of medical marijuana, the more receptive they are to passing state laws allowing either recreational or medicinal use. The campaign that passed Amendment 64 in Colorado did a great job explaining the benefits of recreational legalization and the possible issues that could arise should we pass it, so we all went in with our eyes open. Education is key.

There are other issues plaguing the industry that also need to be addressed, namely banking. The marijuana industry has thrived in Colorado, topping over a billion dollars in sales last year, and that's happening without most financial institutions doing business with anyone involved in selling cannabis. The federal regulations prohibiting banks from doing business with the industry has got to change. This is one of the fastest growing industries in the country and it's ridiculous that these businessmen and women have to jump through so many hoops to ensure financial success when they operate their businesses within the confines of the law.

Finally, it's important that when states decide to legalize either medical or recreational use that it has a solid governing structure in place. Colorado created a separate division within the state government to help coordinate the multiple state and local agencies that were affected by legalization and I see many other states following that same model. A big reason legalization was so effective here was because we had government officials working directly with the industry to coordinate the implementation effort.

As far as legalization at the federal level, the biggest issue is getting legislation passed in Congress. For the last few months, I've watched everyone freak out about Trump, Jeff Sessions, his nominee for Attorney General, and the DEA, but there's very little any of them can do to shut down the industries that have prospered in states that have legalized marijuana. There's also very little they can do should more states decide to legalize. What we really need is for our representatives in each of the states with marijuana laws to come together and legalize it at the federal level. This is an industry burdened with conflicting state and federal laws and it's incredibly difficult to maneuver when your business is legal locally, but illegal federally. More than half the country is living in states with some kind of marijuana law on the books. The people have spoken, and it's the job of our elected representatives to support the will of the people.

The last thing I think is important to mention is that people who support legalization need to contact their representatives. I know it's a pain, and it sounds like it does nothing, but if every congressperson got calls and emails from every constituent who supports legalization at the federal level, they'd be pressured to act.

Kate McKee Simmons is a Denver native who interned at the National Catholic Reporter, was a reporter for the New York Post and spent some time in Israel learning about international reporting. She is now a part of the Westword team as their Marijuana Editor. Follow them here: Twitter, @k8mckee. Facebook, /KateMckeeSimmons/.