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Pot Lobbyists Have Taken Over Washington, D.C. — For Better or Worse

Pot Lobbyists Have Finally Taken Over D.C.
PHOTO Douglas Simkin


Pot Lobbyists Have Taken Over Washington, D.C. — For Better or Worse

The cannabis industry has wised up to the power of lobbying — but it remains to be seen how effectively they’ll spend their green on Capitol Hill.

If there’s one critical thing cannabis advocates failed to consider over the decades of pot prohibition in the United States, it’s that it takes more than funny hats and peaceful protests to get Uncle Sam and his big, bad legion of political puppets to give any issue the consideration it needs to become a part of the American way.

And based on the influx of pro-pot lobbying groups mobbing Capitol Hill, it seems the cannabis industry has finally realized this harsh truth. Now, instead of parading 40-foot joints out in front of the White House, they have stolen a chapter from the book used by the alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical trades for years and sent in suits with briefcases full of money, all to try and get federal marijuana bills pushed through as though everyone has wanted them all along.

It’s a situation that is destined to determine the course of marijuana legalization at the national level. Right now, there are at least two pot lobby groups in Washington, both with different agendas, trying to get the majority of federal lawmakers on board with some kind of nationally charged cannabis reform.

Big Business Embraces Bud

Former House Speaker John Boehner, who spent his entire political career opposing marijuana legalization, is leading the newest band of bud bribers – one called the National Cannabis Roundtable. The group, which announced its formation just last week, seems to be geared toward getting the federal government to recognize marijuana for its medicinal capacity rather than simply ending prohibition.

“As the cannabis industry grows and matures, it’s vital that we work together for a common-sense legal framework for cannabis policy,” Boehner said in a press release.

The NCR’s plan includes providing veterans with access to medical marijuana, expanding cannabis research, eliminating banking issues and providing states with the freedom to do as they wish with weed free from risk of federal interference. But make no mistake, this group has a go-go ganja affinity for medical marijuana.

Boehner, who has been deemed the honorary chairman of this group, has been on the board of directors of medical marijuana firm Acreage Holdings since April 2018 — the same company CBS prevented from airing a commercial during Super Bowl LIII.

Another pot lobby known as the Cannabis Trade Federation (CTF) also has soldiers in Washington trying to influence cannabis law. And by influence, we mean they are essentially trying to pay off all the right people to gain Congressional support for legislation that looks after their business interests.

It’s a seemingly dirty process, all of this lobbying.

Although it is against the rules for companies like Acreage Holdings to directly pay an elected official for their support, there is nothing that prevents them from hiring lobby groups to help generate hefty donations for reelection campaigns. In the end, the lawmaker always knows where the money is coming from. This practice, which is protected under the First Amendment, has been a part of the democratic process since the 18th century.

The CTF in particular, a group that recently hired 15 additional lobbyists to further the cannabis cause in 2019, hasn’t really set out to bring the best possible national pot laws into play.

Instead, the group is hell-bent on collecting additional support for the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act. You might remember this was the popular pot-related bill of 2018 — introduced by Senators Corey Gardner and Elizabeth Warren — not exactly designed to legalize marijuana at the federal level, but to provide the illusion of prohibition’s end.

The Push for Pot — But is it Far Enough?

The language of the bill would not eliminate the cannabis plant from the confines of the Controlled Substances Act, nor would it establish a federal excise tax and a scheme for cannabis companies to operate in the same way as the big booze trade has done for decades.

Instead, the bill would just put a more permanent version of the late Cole Memo into play, whereby as long as cannabis operations adhered to their respective state laws, the Justice Department couldn’t touch them. This bill is good enough, as far as some are concerned. It’s the easy road, they say, because President Trump has indicated that he would “probably” support it in ink.

“The STATES Act, it’s a bipartisan bill that the president has said he will sign into law,” CTF CEO Neal Levine told The Hill. “So it’s the one piece of legislation from our intel that we think we have a legitimate chance to pass into law that would fundamentally address all of the major issues that the cannabis industry faces today.”

Incidentally, a banking bill is set to be heard by a House subcommittee later this week. The outcome of this measure could set the tone for how Congress will deal with pot-related issues for the rest of the year.

The only real common denominator between the two lobby groups is that they both seem to share a lot of enthusiasm for state’s rights. There is no way of knowing at this point in the game whether the two will join forces in some way to get this reform rolling before the end of the year.

It also remains a mystery whether either one will decide to push the recent 420 legislation that was introduced in the House and Senate. These bills would actually legalize the leaf nationwide and set up a taxed and regulated system for which cannabis could be sold in the same way as alcohol.

But neither organization has yet to say whether they have the patience to push Congress to this level. The most likely scenario will be for them to gain support for baby-step measures, like marijuana banking and medical marijuana access for veterans. And then, once those laws are on the books, they might move forward in pushing for more comprehensive reforms.

TELL US, what kind of laws regarding cannabis would you like to see put in place at a federal level?

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