Marijuana Industry Gets Lobbying Muscle

POT-popupMcClatchy reports that a new trade group called the National Cannabis Industry Association will lobby in Washington on behalf of marijuana growers and sellers. Is this the arrival of a savior in the fight for legalization? Or an ominous sign of the coming corporatization of pot?

The cannabis industry has flexed its muscles in 15 states where it’s legal to smoke marijuana for medical purposes. Now the industry is ready to go to work in Washington.

A new trade group, called the National Cannabis Industry Association, is an attempt to bring together sellers, growers and manufacturers and to promote pot on Capitol Hill.

“Our intent is to be the go-to organization in Washington for this industry,” said Aaron Smith, the group’s executive director. For the past five years, Smith worked as the California director of the Marijuana Policy Project.

“Coming out of California and expanding into this national field is pretty exciting,” he said. “There’s been a lot of enthusiasm. … It’s pretty clear that the medical marijuana industry is becoming recognized more and more by the mainstream as a fully legitimate part of the economy.”

Even though California voters last month rejected a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana for all adults, Smith said it was just a matter of time before the drug was fully legalized.

“Legalization is looking inevitable,” he said. “It didn’t happen in 2010, but it’s likely to happen in 2012. … It’s going to be relatively soon we’re going to see states move from medical marijuana into broader legal markets. And the federal government needs to catch up. Frequently the American people are ahead of the Congress.”

But Smith will have a hard time finding many marijuana advocates in Congress. On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted 400-4 to back a resolution sponsored by California Republican Rep. Wally Herger that calls on authorities to get tougher with those who cultivate marijuana on federal land.

In a speech on the House floor, Herger said the presence of Mexican marijuana cartel operations in national forests in Northern California “poses a serious threat to our public safety and use of our public lands.”

Democratic Rep. Steve Kagen of Wisconsin called medical marijuana “a misnomer,” adding: “There is nothing safe about smoking. There is nothing safe about smoking an illicit product called marijuana.”

Smith said the association officially formed this month, putting together a 23-member board that includes leaders in the cannabis industry, who represent dispensaries, operators, publications and insurance providers, among others.

The association’s first target will be a federal law that prohibits marijuana use even if states have legalized it. The law has resulted in confusion amid overlapping jurisdictions, with state authorities enforcing state laws and federal officials enforcing federal laws.

But President Barack Obama’s administration has been easing up. Last year, Attorney General Eric Holder ordered federal prosecutors to back away from cases against medical marijuana patients and to focus on higher-level traffickers or money launderers.

“I’d like to see that codified by Congress, to become the law of the land, not just an executive order,” Smith said. “This industry’s biggest challenges are the obstacles presented by federal law, so that’s why we’re focusing on the change to federal law first and foremost.”

With Republicans poised to take control of the House, Smith said: “I can’t say that I’m super optimistic, but we’ll definitely be pushing the message of federalism, which the Republicans should listen to. All we’re really asking for is to allow the states to essentially make up their own minds on marijuana policy.”

Smith noted that the issue of medical marijuana has bipartisan appeal: Republican candidates won a clean sweep in Arizona last month, but voters still approved the use of medical marijuana. “This is not a left issue,” he said. “This is a mainstream issue, and Republicans should embrace it.”

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  • DeepCough

    I still don’t understand why an industry needs to exist for it to be legal to smoke weed in the first place. This growing “cannabis industry” is just lending itself to the fascist model every other industry in the United States
    has established to give “rights” and money to a select few people, if California’s dispensary model is any
    indicator.

  • DeepCough

    I still don’t understand why an industry needs to exist for it to be legal to smoke weed in the first place. This growing “cannabis industry” is just lending itself to the fascist model every other industry in the United States
    has established to give “rights” and money to a select few people, if California’s dispensary model is any
    indicator.

    • Honu

      You’re right DeepCough (without your name , you don’t get off) but without some lobby muscle and a national organization, marijuana will probably stay a fringe issue and never be legalized. To me it’s about the right to use (or abuse) a substance of your own free will. Pot is too much of a cash crop not to be corporatized. If it takes going in this direction, so be it. It would probably become a mainstream industry no matter what even if it is subject to the same limitations as liquor and tobacco and taxed all to hell.

  • Honu

    You’re right DeepCough (without your name , you don’t get off) but without some lobby muscle and a national organization, marijuana will probably stay a fringe issue and never be legalized. To me it’s about the right to use (or abuse) a substance of your own free will. Pot is too much of a cash crop not to be corporatized. If it takes going in this direction, so be it. It would probably become a mainstream industry no matter what even if it is subject to the same limitations as liquor and tobacco and taxed all to hell.

  • Mhonohan

    Of course they need to get tough on people growing on Federal lands. For one, that is not the intent of the land. Second, most of those growers are Mexican thugs and are dangerous. On the other hand, the best way to stop all that is let me grow my weed on my property. What part of liberty to Congressmen not understand.

  • Mhonohan

    Of course they need to get tough on people growing on Federal lands. For one, that is not the intent of the land. Second, most of those growers are Mexican thugs and are dangerous. On the other hand, the best way to stop all that is let me grow my weed on my property. What part of liberty to Congressmen not understand.

  • havoc

    why is it still illigal i tough it was going to be legalized with tabacco and alcohol becuase there worst then cannabis

  • havoc

    why is it still illigal i tough it was going to be legalized with tabacco and alcohol becuase there worst then cannabis

  • emilio

    and another thing whether its legal or not people are still going to smoke it so there just getting arrestted for the reason whats so ever i think if you were to arrest everyone who smokes weed almost eveyone in the world would be in jail

  • emilio

    and another thing whether its legal or not people are still going to smoke it so there just getting arrestted for the reason whats so ever i think if you were to arrest everyone who smokes weed almost eveyone in the world would be in jail