Marijuana business owners are pouring more of their profits into lobbying legislators as they face a federal crackdown from the Trump administration.
A survey taken from USA TODAY discovered hundreds of thousands of dollars streaming from the cannabis industry into campaign finance accounts of both lawmakers and political action committees, with great importance this year on Congressional Republicans who are trying to prevent the Trump administration from targeting marijuana businesses.
Joined with, medical and recreational marijuana marketplaces across the country are worth a staggering $8 billion, and last year generated at least $2 billion in taxes, said Matt Karnes of cannabis data firm GreenWave Advisors. It’s no surprise those businesses want to protect what they’ve built, experts say.
“These are legitimate, taxpaying businesses that want and deserve to be heard, and lawmakers at every level of government have become more comfortable with accepting their contributions,” stated Mason Tvert, a cannabis activist who helped lead Colorado’s legalization effort in 2012.
Politicians are increasingly willing to accept those contributions from an industry that remains illegal at the federal level and now faces even more scrutiny after Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier this month rolled back Obama administration policies not to interfere with state laws allowing people to use recreational marijuana.
Eight states, along with the District of Columbia, permit adults to possess small amounts of marijuana, and Vermont’s governor was expected to make pot legal in the Green Mountain state this weekend.
Money is also flowing at the state level, where legislators and regulators decide on details about packaging, testing and even who can get business licenses. Legalization ballot initiatives across the country have also been backed by millions of dollars, particularly in California.
Cannabis lobbying groups, including the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), have long lobbied lawmakers, but now marijuana business owners themselves are contributing — and letting everyone know it.