By Eli McVey
Over half of executives in the cannabis industry are worried about their business prospects under a Trump administration, with 30% saying they are “very concerned,” according to a poll by Marijuana Business Daily.
The survey results underscore the general sense of uneasiness in the wake of the presidential election felt by many of those who run companies in an industry that is still illegal in the eyes of the federal government.
Still, a fair share of executives – roughly a third of those who responded to the survey – are somewhat or very optimistic, believing the climate could get better for their businesses under Trump … or at least stay the same.
The anonymous online survey, conducted Dec. 6-7, includes responses from 223 self-identified marijuana industry executives and senior managers.
Trump’s victory in the presidential race and his subsequent selection of several anti-marijuana politicians to his cabinet has created a hefty dose of uncertainty in the industry.
The president-elect has not put forth an official policy position on marijuana.
He said earlier this year that he is “in favor” of medical marijuana “100%,” but Trump has also said several times he believes recreational cannabis “is bad” and is “causing a lot of problems in Colorado.”
Trump’s pick for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has been especially hostile toward the industry. Among many other anti-marijuana statements he’s made, Sessions has been quoted as saying, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
How marijuana industry executives feel about their business prospects under Trump largely seems to mirror who they voted for in the election, though that’s certainly not the case for everyone.
The 33% of survey respondents who said they’re optimistic closely resembles results of a previous Marijuana Business Daily poll conducted in late July in which 32% of cannabis industry professionals, executives and investors indicated they would vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election.
Looking at attitudes by sector of the industry, cultivators and investors are more bullish than their counterparts. Nearly 45% of cultivation executives and 35% of investors are somewhat or very optimistic about their business prospects under a Trump administration.
Ryan Smith – CEO and co-founder of LeafLink, a New York-based wholesale management platform – has received questions from both investors and co-workers about what the Trump presidency means for his business.
Smith said the company is moving forward as usual and actually handled more transactions on its platform this November than ever before.
“We’re in the wait-and-see camp. No one’s freaking out or overly excited – there’s still a ton of market for us to capture,” he said.
In terms of those most concerned about their business prospects under Trump, retailers led the pack. A whopping 71% of respondents who help run dispensaries or rec stores are somewhat or very concerned about their business prospects, while just 14% feel somewhat optimistic. Not a single retail respondent indicated they were very optimistic about their business prospects under a Trump administration.
Aaron Varney, director of Dockside Cannabis, a retail marijuana store with two locations in the Seattle, Washington, area, thinks the election of Donald Trump brings a lot more uncertainty to the industry.
“It destabilizes the ground under all of our businesses,” Varney said. “It definitely puts a big question mark on whether this continues to move full bore or if we’ll be hunkering down for the next four years.”
At a higher level, Varney said he’s “more concerned about the people-plant relationship that could get delayed for at least four more years. Are we going to hear the drum beat of ‘good people don’t smoke marijuana?’ ”
It’s a question many in the industry are anxious to have answered.
Eli McVey can be reached at [email protected]