Maine marijuana grower Tom Albert shows off his plants this summer at his grow operation outside Portland, Maine. Like many growers, Albert is considering whether to transition to sell recreational marijuana or remain solely a medical-marijuana supplier.(Photo: Trevor Hughes/USA TODAY)
DENVER — Twenty years after California first legalized marijuana use for sick people, “medical marijuana” has become a billion-dollar business so cloaked in emotion that it would be virtually impossible to dismantle.
Without any real national discussion, most Americans now live where it’s possible to get pot for pain, nausea or other ailments. Thirty states already permit some form of medical cannabis use, and several more are poised to approve it this fall — a sign this now-beloved industry has dramatically altered public opinion among both conservatives and liberals.
“I don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat — I don’t care who you are,” said Kevin Murphy, the CEO of Acreage Holdings, a medical marijuana firm with operations in 11 states. “If you have a brother dying of cancer, and this is the only thing that brings him comfort … you are an