Weed Correspondent: Rand Paul Has Pro-Marijuana Stance

By Brian Flood 

Fusion cannabis correspondent Ryan Nerz‘s show The Cannabusiness Report airs every Monday at 10 p.m. ET. Nerz explores the country’s marijuana transformation, traveling to cities where the weed culture is both booming and struggling. We caught up with Nerz for 5 Questions about his show, his unique career and even the upcoming presidential election.

TVNewser: In all seriousness, how in the world did you become a cannabis correspondent?

Nerz: I’m the king of weird jobs. I used to write (and model for) teen romance novels. I emceed eating competitions for Major League Eating. Then I decided to “get serious” and write a book about a topic very dear to my heart, entitled MARIJUANAMERICA: One Man’s Struggle to Understand America’s Dysfunctional Love Affair with Weed.

Not long after the book was published, I was hired by Fusion. Producers suggested I try appearing as a weed expert on Fusion shows and we started calling the segments The Cannabusiness Report. I was asked to make a pilot for a stand-alone show. And then someone at Fusion came up with the idea of appointing me with one of the best job titles out there: Chief Cannabis Correspondent.

TVNewser: Were you always into the marijuana culture before you made a career out of covering it?

Nerz: Pretty much. I didn’t start using marijuana until college – at Yale, in the mid ‘90s. That was the era of amazing weed-inflected hip hop…artists like Dr. Dre, Wu Tang, and Nas. In their lyrics, marijuana and success seemed inextricably linked. Yet, after I graduated, I noticed that the “stoner slacker” stereotype was still very much alive in American pop culture, despite the fact that my “pothead” friends were becoming successful bankers, producers and attorneys. So after medical marijuana laws passed in California and a few other states, I saw the sea change coming and consciously decided to become a self-styled weed expert.

TVNewser:  Which candidate should marijuana advocates support in the 2016 presidential election?

Nerz: Ron Paul. Just kidding. Rand Paul! Seriously though – libertarians like the Pauls have the most pragmatic pro-marijuana stance: leave it up to the states and give weed businesses access to the banking system.

Beyond Paul, there’s no real good Republican candidate for marijuana advocates. Jeb Bush might be the worst. He’s a longtime drug warrior who sits on the board of the anti-weed Drug Free America Foundation. But if this stance starts hurting his numbers – 58 percent of Americans now want to make consumption legal – Republican candidates like Jeb will likely push it off as a states rights issue.

The X factor is Hillary Clinton. In keeping with her tight-lipped pre-campaign, Hilary has gone on record by aggressively saying nothing. She told CNN she’s going to “wait and see” the evidence from states like Colorado, which she called “laboratories of democracy.” She says medical marijuana may be appropriate in extreme cases, but she wants more research. My guess is that she’ll ultimately cater to the numbers and loosen up her stance.

TVNewser:  What is the craziest thing you’ve seen covering the weed industry?

Nerz: Oh man – so much craziness. For my book, I embedded with rogue growers in California’s Emerald Triangle. We got snowed in for days on the top of a mountain, and I used two pit bull pups to keep warm. One of the craziest things might be the most banal: going to buy weed products at a Denver dispensary, which feels remarkably normal, like buying a Venti latte at Starbucks.

TVNewser:  How much money are “Ganjaprenuers” in Colorado actually making?

Nerz: There is no way to know. I was just recently trying to find out the total revenue for the biggest and most media-friendly edibles company in Colorado, Dixie Edibles. Predictably, like most other companies in the industry, Dixie doesn’t share revenue figures. This is due to the underlying risk of “state legal” marijuana businesses–they are always federally illegal. The feds have a tendency to go after publicly successful businesses like Harborside Health Center, which is featured in our episode about ganjapreneurs.

But there is solid data on how much legal weed loot is being made overall. In 2014, the first full year of legal recreational sales in Colorado, there was $700 million in sales. That number is projected to rise to $1 billion in 2016.