Tags: Marijuana Legalization | pot lobbyists

Pot Lobbyists Hit Capitol Hill as Legalization Trend Grows

By    |   Friday, 05 Dec 2014 11:25 AM

In November, voters in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia all passed ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana and with more states likely to weigh the issue in 2016, legalization advocates have greatly increased their spending on Capitol Hill, reports USA Today.

This year, the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) created its first political action committee, doubled its spending on lobbying efforts and even held its first trade show in Colorado, which legalized the use of pot in 2012.

"Just like any other business sector in the country, we have a vested interest in ensuring that federal policy is favorable to business conditions for these small-business owners and job creators," Aaron Smith, the group's executive director, tells USA Today.

So far this year, the group has spent $60,000 on lobbying, which is a dramatic increase over its spending in previous years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP). According to CRP, NCIA spent $20,000 in 2011 and $30,000 in 2013.

While NCIA is the first pro-legalization group to hire a lobbyist, they are not the only – or the largest – organization pushing legalization measures on both the state and federal level.

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which gives financial support to pro-reform candidates, is the largest organization in terms of its budget, number of members, and staff, according to CRP.

Between 1995 and mid-2014, MPP has contributed nearly $288,000 to campaigns with a majority of that funding ($252,400) being directed to Democrat candidates. They contributed just $35,500 to Republican candidates.

In addition to Oregon, the District of Columbia and Alaska, 22 states now have legal access to marijuana for medical or adult-use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Although the decriminalization advocates have made gains in recent elections, some Republicans on Capitol Hill are taking steps to turn back some of those advances.

Republicans are demanding that an amendment be included in the omnibus spending bill banning the District from using local funds to enact the decriminalization measure, reports Roll Call.

Maryland Rep. Andy Harris sponsored the amendment and, if enacted, it would reverse the decriminalization of marijuana in Washington, D.C., which took effect this summer, and also would prevent any attempts to legalize marijuana in the District.

While activists will continue to face opposition, they are hoping to seize momentum toward liberalization of pot laws, including in Virginia, reports WVIR-TV.

According to Gallup, support for legalization has increased since the organization first asked the question in 1969, when just 12 percent of adults supported decriminalization.

Support for legalization has steadily increased in the last decade. In 2003, 34 percent of Americans supported legalization and that number had grown to 58 percent by 2013, according to Gallup's analysis of its long-term polling trend.

Gallup's Lydia Saad does note the 2013 poll was conducted during a period of heavy media coverage of ballot initiatives, which would explain why support fell to 51 percent in Gallup's most recent poll.

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In November, voters in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia all passed ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana and with more states likely to weigh the issue in 2016, legalization advocates have greatly increased their spending on Capitol Hill, reports USA Today.
pot lobbyists
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2014-25-05
Friday, 05 Dec 2014 11:25 AM
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