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July 27, 2013

"Big Marijuana lobby fights legalization efforts"

Mm imageThe title of this post is the headline of this intriguing new Politico piece concerning the latest politics of pot.  Here are excerpts:

Pot legalization activists are running into an unexpected and ironic opponent in their efforts to make cannabis legal: Big Marijuana.

Medical marijuana is a billion-dollar industry — legal in 18 states, including California, Nevada, Oregon and Maine — and like any entrenched business, it’s fighting to keep what it has and shut competitors out. Dispensary owners, trade associations and groups representing the industry are deeply concerned — and in some cases actively fighting — ballot initiatives and legislation that could wreck their business model.

That pits them against full legalization advocates, who have been hoping to play off wins at the ballot box last fall in Colorado and Washington state that installed among the most permissive pot laws in the world. Activists are hoping to pass full legalization measures in six more states by 2016.

From the point of view of dispensary owners, legalization laws — depending on how they’re written — can have little immediate upside and offer plenty of reasons for concern. For one, their businesses — still illegal under federal law — benefit from exclusive monopolies on the right to sell legal pot, but state measures still don’t end the risks of an FBI raid or Internal Revenue Service audit. Meanwhile, those same federal laws that prohibit growing, selling and using keeps pot prices high.

This spring, the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine joined the usual coalition of anti-pot forces of active law-enforcement groups, social conservatives and public health advocates to oppose a state bill that would legalize possession of small quantities of the drug. The medical marijuana lobby argued that criminal organizations would start smuggling pot to neighboring states, and they complained that the bill’s tax plan was unworkable and unfair....

Full legalization advocates, like the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, say it’s all about the money. “There are people who are benefiting financially and would prefer to see nothing change that,” said Erik Altieri, communications director for NORML.

“NORML believes the only way to truly ensure access for those patients who need cannabis for medical purposes is to legalize its use for all adults,” he added. “This will provide every adult safe and convenient access to quality cannabis, regardless of whether or not their state legislators think their specific condition ‘qualifies.’”

There wasn’t always a major divide in the cannabis camp. The two sides of the movement have long worked together on de-scheduling marijuana as a controlled substance and stopping federal raids on legal dispensaries.

Many owners of medical marijuana dispensaries got their start in the broader anti-drug war movement and are still on the same intellectual side of the issue — working to de-criminalize pot. “It’s like dentists and fluoride,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “People using fluoride reduces business for dentists. But nonetheless, dentists see fluoride as part of what they have to advocate for.”...

The split between the two sides of the pro-pot lobby is generally on the state level, where legislatures have been willing to take up the issue. Both sides are united in opposition to federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries and support an overhaul of federal drug laws, but so far, Congress has shown little interest. “At the federal level, there really is no divergence of interest at this point. We have a narrower focus” said Betty Aldworth, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association.

The association and Americans for Safe Access are two major national trade groups that push for strict neutrality on state-level ballot efforts. Americans for Safe Access advocates specifically for medical cannabis, while NCIA represents all marijuana retailers — recreational and medical.

In Washington state, pot dispensary operators said the new legalization law would put them out of business. Medical marijuana activists also were upset about a standard for driving under the influence, included in the 2012 ballot initiative. It proposed that police could jail them even if they weren’t high.

In Washington, Steve Sarich, executive director of the Cannabis Action Coalition, ran a vocal campaign against the ballot measure. Among his concerns: provisions in the law that allow cities to impose restrictive zoning codes on marijuana retailers, and the liquor control board’s lack of experience regulating marijuana. The initiative — called I-502 — was “designed to pass,” he said. “It was never designed to be implemented. I’m willing to bet you any amount of money you like that it won’t be implemented.”

In Colorado, opposition from the industry to the 2012 ballot measure was muted — but pot dispensaries won an important concession: the exclusive right to convert into recreational shops before anyone else can apply for a license....

“Their concerns are oftentimes valid,” Mason Tvert, said Marijuana Policy Project of Denver and who also helped run the pro-legalization campaign in 2012. “We’re taking about people who have risked their freedom and liberty and faced the threat of criminal penalties to open these businesses to meet the needs of the public.”

July 27, 2013 at 06:38 PM | Permalink

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Comments

"...the exclusive right to convert into recreational shops before anyone else can apply for a license."

If an exclusive right is sought, it is to charge above market rates, without additional benefit to the public. Rent Seeking. Everyone does it. It is up to the legislature to resist and to protect the public interest.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 28, 2013 8:12:25 AM

Marijuana: "Nature's Best and Safest Medicine"

Thalidomide: "Wonder Drug that Provides a Safe, Sound Sleep"

Obama: "The Most Transparent and Ethical President"


Posted by: Adamakis | Jul 29, 2013 2:51:55 PM

Driving while impaired is a risk for everyone on the road, and those in close proximity. I agree there needs to be some legal lingo put in place to set a standard for marijuana and driving under the influence. It is a complicated thing much like a typical DUI but as we all know it takes years, or a high profile case to make this work.

Posted by: Naegle Law Firm | Aug 19, 2013 5:42:13 PM

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