Image of Aaron Smith, executive director of NCIA
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A top representative of the legal marijuana industry rallied the troops on Tuesday during his address at the Cannabis Business Summit & Expo in Denver; calling on them to remain innovative and socially responsible.
 
Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), called on those attending his address to look around the room. “You’re all activists,” he told them. “You’re using your dollars and your voices to create real change in this world.”
 
Smith commended those working in legal cannabis for creating a unified campaign to reform what he called the “draconian federal marijuana laws that are hampering the ability for us to reach our full potential as an industry;” laws that he added are still keeping many otherwise harmless people imprisoned.
 
The constant presence of pro-marijuana activism in Washington, Smith says, has also ensured that those efforts to reform federal cannabis laws are no longer just symbolic.
 
“We’ve shifted the dialogue into a real business issue,” he added, “and because of decades of long work that came before there ever was an industry, we’re now making real significant and tangible progress.”
 
Smith noted the some of the potential legislative progress taking place on Capitol Hill; including the Senate now considering marijuana reform legislation via the CARERS (Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States) Act. That measure would, among other things, move marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II drug and allow the banking and finance industries to work with cannabis businesses without the fear of federal prosecution.
 
“You think about it; we are only 16 votes away from seeing the House pass legislation backing federal law enforcement away from all state-legal cannabis businesses.  That would effectively end criminal marijuana prohibition,” he said to applause from his audience.
 
But he warned that the industry needs to remain unified and innovative, as well as a champion of positive values like good corporate and social cultures, while understanding its responsibility to both consumers and communities.
 
“We need to ensure that we don’t become just another big tobacco,” he added, “and instead create an industry we can all be proud of for generations.”
 
“Markets drive change and drive social change, and always have,” Smith concluded. “And this is our chance to make this country a better place.”
 
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