Our fourth and final post in our marijuana prohibition series takes a look at the last great barrier to marijuana legalization nationwide – lobbyists, money and big industry.
There are plenty of organizations lobbying for legalization, such as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). Since 2002, NORML’s political action committee has raised over $100,000 to support pro-pot politicians (say that five times fast), and since 1998, MPP has raised just short of $450,000 for the same purpose. That’s a hefty chunk of change, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of money being spent to oppose legalization. Who are the biggest opponents? The answer may, but probably won’t, shock you!
Industrial Giants Against Marijuana
- Police unions receive an astonishing amount of money in favor of waging the War on Drugs. Naturally, they want to keep the money flowing, so every year, just four police unions (National Fraternal Order of Police, National Association of Police Organizations, International Union of Police Associations and the International Association of Chiefs of Police) spend at least $540,000 combined to lobby against legalization.
- Private prison companies are also a benefactor of strict drug laws. They’ve said as much in their regulatory filings. Corrections Corporation of America, for example, said in 2010 that restructuring drug laws would hurt its bottom line. Without prisoners, they don’t make money. Probably the reason they spend at least $970,000 a year on lobbying against marijuana legalization.
- Prison guard unions are also overwhelmingly anti-pot (sensing a pattern here?). One of the most politically active labor unions in the country is the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and they gave over $11 million to campaigns against pot in 2014, and spent an additional $2.4 million themselves in lobbying.
- Big Pharma does not want marijuana legalized. They fear that marijuana will replace expensive prescription painkillers, and they’re probably right to some degree. Tens of millions of dollars from Big Pharma pour into elections to prevent legalization.
- One opponent you might not expect: the alcohol industry. The logic there is that if marijuana is legal, fewer people will buy alcohol. Seems solid, but actually, it doesn’t ring true. In Colorado, alcohol vendors have said that legalization either has had no effect on alcohol sales, or maybe even raised them. Still, tens of millions of dollars come from Big Alcohol toward anti-pot candidates every year.
According to a poll by Gallup in late 2015, 58 percent of Americans favor legalizing marijuana. In 1969, it was only 12 percent. We’ve come a long way, and it seems like the train won’t stop, but until the public can overcome the mega-millions pouring in from lobbies to keep weed illegal, people will have to resort to other methods to get their smoke. On the other hand, they can move to Colorado, because we make sense here.
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