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Could the ‘Oprah Effect’ Change America’s Attitude Toward Marijuana Legalization?

May 15, 2018

  • Nearly two-thirds of Americans say pot should be legal
  • The ‘Oprah Effect’ could migrate to attitudes about pot
  • Legislation could soon be introduced that would legalize pot in all 50 states
3 min read

If Oprah Winfrey smokes a little pot every now and then, times really could be a-changing.

In casual conversation,  TV personality Gayle King earlier this week told Ellen DeGeneres on her talk show that Winfrey likes to smoke pot sometimes.

“Oprah has also smoked a little marijuana, too, I don’t mind saying,” King, a friend of Winfrey’s, reportedly told DeGeneres. This is, of course, second-hand information and Winfrey has not weighed in on King’s comments or confirmed them. (She did admit to smoking some marijuana in the 1980s, according to reports.)

Still, Winfrey has had a profound effect on numerous industries, and even this second-hand information could cause a shift in thought about the growing pot industry.

In fact, the timing of King’s comments comes not long after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s announcement in April that he plans to introduce legislation that would make marijuana legal in all 50 states. Taken together, the comments could portend that pot is moving into the mainstream.

“The time has come to decriminalize marijuana,” Schumer said in a statement. “My thinking—as well as the general population’s views—on the issue has evolved, and so I believe there’s no better time than the present to get this done.”

The Oprah Effect

Whatever Winfrey does, she tends to do in a big way. And her Midas touch has had a huge impact on numerous industries.

Winfrey, whose rousing Golden Globes speech earlier in the year prompted speculation that she may soon be running for president, is worth close to $3 billion. In addition to making frequent appearances in films, such as the recent movie adaptation of Wrinkle in Time, Winfrey is the owner of multi-media production company Harpo Productions, which includes television network Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).

In 2017, Winfrey sold a $70 million stake in OWN to Discovery. She also reportedly invests in real estate, according to reports.

When she announced a partnership with diet company Weight Watchers in 2015, it sent the company’s stock soaring. At the time, she bought a 10% stake in the company worth $42 million, and shares of Weightwatchers doubled soon after, according to reports.

Winfrey’s Midas touch has had a big impact on numerous industries.

The pot industry is growing

The marijuana industry is expected to add 200,000 new jobs in the U.S. by 2020, according to New Frontier Data, which provides research on the cannabis market.

Total legal sales of cannabis were about $10 billion in 2017, and are expected to grow to $24.5 billion by 2021, according to reports.

There are now also 29 states that allow doctors to prescribe cannabis for medical purposes, which can include helping to alleviate nausea related to chemotherapy, stimulating appetite for people who are chronically ill and curing insomnia.

Check out our podcast about the marijuana industry.

Changing attitudes

Meanwhile, more and more Americans are becoming pot-friendly. Nearly two-thirds of Americans say marijuana should be legal, according to a 2017 Gallup poll. That’s up from 60% in 2016, and just 34% in 2002.

Growth is expected for a long list of businesses, such as the cultivators and packagers of the plants, dispensaries for medical and recreational weed, not to mention companies creating products that use cannabis byproducts called CBDs. CBDs are non-pyscho-active derivatives of cannabis, which can be used for a variety of purposes, including helping with inflammation, chronic pain, and depression.

Companies are also capitalizing on industrial uses for cannabis, including the production of hemp, which can be used to make fabrics and textiles, as well as being used as additives to health food and body care products.

“There are millions of customers who are excited about legal cannabis,” David Rheins, the chief executive, and co-founder of the Marijuana Business Association, a trade group devoted to the cannabis industry, told Stash recently. “[The industry] is getting bigger and bigger and it’s not going to stop.”

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By Jeremy Quittner
Jeremy Quittner is the senior writer for Stash.

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