As the legal cannabis industry in the United States continues to swell into a multi-billion dollar economic oasis, political veterans from across the nation are assembling to press the flesh of influence with Washington DC in hopes of swaying decisions as they pertain to the business of marijuana.
To some, this concept might sound like the next generation of weed warfare, a lobby group armed with suitcases full of bribes and more than willing to conduct the occasional blackmail shakedown all in the best interest of Big Marijuana. It important to remember, however, that this is America, and if the marijuana industry ever expects to be taken seriously by the political fat cats making up the rules in our nation’s capital, then we suspect the time has come to aggressively play the game.
Jack Lavin, the former chief of staff for Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, recently made the decision to leave government politics in order to embark on a career as a lobbyist for marijuana-related businesses. While former New Mexico Governor and Libertarian Party presidential candidate, Gary Johnson took his approach to lobbying a step further last month when it was announced that he was appointed CEO of the publicly traded Cannabis Sativa, Inc.
“Overall, I don’t see a downside to any of this,” said Johnson about the recent insurgence of marijuana lobbyists. “From the standpoint of the legalized environment nationwide, it is all headed that way, and it is headed that way very quickly.”
Some marijuana advocates says the presence of industry lobbyists is something to be embraced, not feared because it points towards the nation’s maturing opinions towards the legalization of marijuana. “In many respects, it is a good thing,” Chris DeLaForest, a lobbyist from Minnesota recently told CNBC.
Although the cannabis industry obviously does not have as much clout as Big Tobacco or Big Pharma, industry experts predict the influential vibrations of the cannabis lobbyist will only get stronger as time moves on. “Big Marijuana” isn’t turning the gears like Big Oil, certainly not at this point, but as the industry grows both financially and politically, it will no doubt attract more people with governmental experience to till its fields, said Michael Correia, a lobbyist with the National Cannabis Industry Association. “I think you will see more money available to be pulling people like me.”
However, non-profit marijuana advocacy groups are worried that the increase in private sector lobbying will force them to increase the salaries of staff members or risk losing them to these organizations that can offer them exponentially more money. “Looking ahead, the nonprofit advocacy side is going to have to pay more,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “I am going to have to jack up the salaries of the people in my organization.”
Yet, the idea of Big Marijuana is still in its infancy stage, according to Kampia, who says he is not aware of any politicians willing to leave their six-figure paychecks to support marijuana. “It might be enough for a frustrated state legislator to quit their job,” he said.
Regardless of the differing opinions on this subject, it only makes sense that converting legal marijuana into the next American mega-industry is what it will take to finally persuade the federal government to reconsider its stance on prohibition.