Weed Growers Not High On Vicente Fox's Goal To Add Pot To NAFTAFormer Mexican President Vicente Fox is planting a seed as far as trade agreements go: He wants to add marijuana to North American Free Trade Agreement.
Fox currently sits on the board of Vancouver-based medical marijuana producer Khiron Life Sciences Corp., and he believes cannabis should be treated like any other form of produce, according to Bloomberg.
Mexico legalized medical marijuana in 2017, and Fox predicts recreational weed will become legal in the country next year. He’s high on the idea, saying it could help curb drug cartel violence.
“We can change criminals for businessmen, we can change underground, illegal non-taxpayers into an industry, a sector of the economy,” Fox told Bloomberg on Thursday. “I think it should be part of NAFTA and that’s what I’m pursuing.”
But that possibility gets marijuana growers like Jamie Warm all out of joint.
Warm, the CEO of Henry’s Original, a Mendocino, California-based cannabis company, believes making pot part of NAFTA could be devastating to American agriculture.
“U.S. farming has collapsed as it has been outsourced everywhere,” he told HuffPost. “How is that fair? But cannabis is one crop that small farms have relied on for income.”
Although the cannabis industry is growing, Warm said it’s also become more corporate, making the barriers to entry into the market more difficult for small farmers.
Allowing cannabis from other countries could nip the industry in the bud since “U.S. farmers have to deal with environmental regulations and worker protections that other countries don’t have.”
Lex Corwin, the founder of Stone Road Farms in Los Angeles, also sees big problems with Fox’s proposal.
“NAFTA is a federal trade agreement and marijuana is federally illegal, therefore marijuana can’t be included until it’s federally legalized,” he told HuffPost.
But even if cannabis does become legal on a federal level, Corwin doesn’t think it should be included in international trade agreements.
“Small cultivators and manufacturers are struggling enough with California’s excessive regulation and constantly changing legal framework,” he argued. “If we add foreign-grown, low-cost marijuana to the equation, it would be a death sentence for many American marijuana businesses and the tens of thousands of well-paying jobs this industry provides.”
Kenny Morrison, president of the California Cannabis Manufacturers Association, holds out hope that pot smokers will ultimately prefer quality above cheap weed, but he added that legally available Mexican marijuana could impact the industry.
“There will always be a market for California craft cannabis, but could Mexico disrupt it to a large degree? Yes. it happened to kale, why not cannabis?”
Some pot industry people think a NAFTA deal could be considered in the future, but not in the current climate.
Matthew Nathaniel, the general manager of Heavy Grass, a Los Angeles-based vape company, said trade agreements could be the future of cannabis production, but he added that Mexico, Canada and the U.S. are just too far apart on legality.
“Additionally, none of the three have a proven regulatory system, with all three having struggles in the early stages of market development,” he told HuffPost. “There’s still much to do before a deal of this scale can be a reality.”
But while many in the pot industry are hesitant about including marijuana crops in NAFTA, some investors believe the benefits outweigh the potential downside.
Wil Ralston, the president of SinglePoint, a publicly-traded cannabis and technology holding company, believes allowing the import and export of legal cannabis would create huge growth in the industry.
“While I understand that there might be concerns from U.S. cultivators, I do see an agreement like the one Vicente Fox proposes greatly expanding the potential U.S. market size for exports, in addition to opening a new and lucrative supply chain between U.S. and Mexican companies,” he told HuffPost.
Meanwhile, Leslie Bocskor, President of Electrum Partners, an advisory services firm specializing in medical and recreational cannabis, said he’s certain that marijuana won’t be added to NAFTA anytime soon ― and so is the guy who is suggesting it.
“President Fox knows that the Trump Administration will never add Cannabis to NAFTA at this time,”Bocskor told HuffPost. “However, he does know that the timing to have this conversation for the first time is now.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly cited a quote from Leslie Bocskor as being from Erik Knutson.