Exclusive Interview: Trish Regan of CNBC’s ‘Marijuana USA’


Photo: CNBC
Trish Regan, CNBC: “The government stands to make a lot of money in the marijuana business thanks to the tax revenue and licensing fees it generates”

​CNBC correspondent Trish Regan will take viewers back inside the booming marijuana industry on Wednesday night with the one-hour documentary Marijuana USA, looking at the world’s most commonly used illegal substance as it becomes part of the mainstream.

The Emmy-nominated Regan travels the country in this followup to CNBC’s Marijuana Inc., which was the most viewed documentary in CNBC history, and finds that in many places, marijuana has already shed its back-alley stigma.
Toke of the Town was able to catch up with the busy Regan and ask her a few questions.
Toke: What is the biggest misconception most Americans have about the marijuana business?
Regan: A lot of people assume the marijuana industry is filled with stoners and ex-hippies just trying to make a little cash.
This group exists; however, the marijuana business has gone far beyond “a little extra cash.” It’s a $100 billion industry and it’s now being dominated by a host of young, savvy entrepreneurs that are willing to risk it all for their chance to be on the front lines of America’s new green rush.

Toke: What, in your opinion, are marijuana business leaders doing right in their quest for mainstream acceptance? What are they doing wrong?

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The Emmy-nominated Regan, 37, believes medical marijuana will be legalized “in the near future”

Regan: Marijuana business leaders are stressing the economic reality: The government stands to make a lot of money in the marijuana business thanks to the tax revenue and licensing fees it generates. At a time when the nation is struggling to regain its economic footing, a new industry represents new profit potential.

In Colorado, pot entrepreneurs are trying to work with the government to ensure better regulation. The danger, however, is that in an effort to regulate, the government takes its restrictions too far.

Already, dispensary owners and growers in the region are complaining of too much red tape. If the government overdoes its efforts, the industry could be forced back underground. After all, if there are too many restrictions (fees, taxes, regulations), then the law of economics would argue that the market is not functioning as it should.

Toke: Do you believe that marijuana will be legalized for medicinal use coast to coast in the United States? Will it be legalized for recreational use? If so, when?

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Trish Regan, CNBC: “By making it illegal to grow pot, the federal government is contributing to the violence within the drug trade”

Regan: I do believe that it will be legalized in the near future for medical use.

Science has already proven that marijuana can help improve appetite, especially among people with debilitating diseases, and thus I suspect it will become increasingly difficult for the federal government to lock up people who are growing (or using) marijuana for medical purposes.

Demographics are also on legalization’s side since younger people are more tolerant and more libertarian in their views toward pot.

I also think there’s an economic reality at play in that the government could earn a lot of money through the taxation of marijuana. The economics could come into play for full-on legalization much like the repeal of alcohol prohibition.

I’d also argue that since marijuana usage rates have increased in the U.S., despite all the taxpayer money being spent on prohibition efforts, there is a real argument to be made for legalization.

By making it illegal to grow pot, the federal government is contributing to the violence within the drug trade by forcing marijuana underground. (Roughly 60 percent of the Mexican drug cartels’ profits stem from marijuana, for example.).

Toke: Have you ever tried marijuana?

Regan: I have not tried marijuana. I’ve never smoked a cigarette. And, believe it or not, I’ve never eaten ketchup. [Laughs]

CNBC’s Trish Regan is co-anchor of The Call (Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to noon ET). She is also author of the upcoming book, Joint Ventures: Inside America’s Almost Legal Marijuana Industry, due out April 20, 2011 and published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Marijuana USA will re-air on Wednesday, December 8 at 10 p.m. Eastern and Pacific; Thursday, December 9 at 8 p.m. and midnight ET; and Sunday, December 12 at 10 p.m. ET.

Photo: CNBC
CNBC’s Trish Regan getting a tour of a marijuana grow with pot entrepreneur Wanda James