Move over, Big Pharma and Big Oil, Big Marijuana is here

Legalization 'looking inevitable,' spokesman says

 

If there's one group of people who get their way in Washington, it's lobbyists.

Now, advocates of marijuana legalization may have a reason to cheer that political reality: They're getting their own marijuana lobby group.

And just Big Pharma and Big Oil lobby for greater leeway for their businesses, so too will Big Marijuana push for their industry to be given the freedom to succeed.

Aaron Smith, executive director of the newly formed National Cannabis Industry Association, says that marijuana legalization is "looking inevitable."

Smith told McClatchy news service: "It's pretty clear that the medical marijuana industry is becoming recognized more and more by the mainstream as a fully legitimate part of the economy."

Legalization "didn't happen in 2010, but it's likely to happen in 2012," he added. "It's going to be relatively soon we're going to see states move from medical marijuana into broader legal markets. And the federal government needs to catch up. Frequently the American people are ahead of the Congress."

The NCIA notes that 15 states have now legalized medical marijuana, providing the lobby group with a legal base from which to operate and collect funding. And just as Big Pharma and Big Oil frame their demands through the prism of American jobs, so too will the National Cannabis Industry Association argue that legalizing marijuana will put thousands of Americans to work.

“The ever-expanding list of state-sanctioned medical cannabis providers and ancillary businesses have easily become a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States, generating thousands of good jobs and paying tens – if not hundreds – of millions in taxes,” Smith said in a statement last month. “These businesses have clearly earned the right to strong representation on the national stage and recognition as a true force for economic growth.”

According to McClatchy, the lobby group's first target will be a federal law that upholds marijuana prohibition in states that have legalized it. But the news service notes it could be an uphill battle: By a margin of 400 to 4, House representatives recently voted in favor of a resolution calling for tougher laws against those who grow pot on federal land.

And the US's most high-profile political battle for marijuana legalization -- California's Proposition 19 -- lost by a margin of 57 to 43 in last month's vote. The defeat for pot activists came after US Attorney General Eric Holder said he would continue enforcing federal marijuana laws in the state regardless of how Californians voted.

Smith sounded an ambivalent note about his lobby group's prospects in the coming Republican-dominated House, suggesting that framing the argument as a states' rights issue -- each state should decide its own pot policies -- should appeal to federalist Republicans.

"I can't say that I'm super optimistic, but we'll definitely be pushing the message of federalism, which the Republicans should listen to," he told McClatchy. "All we're really asking for is to allow the states to essentially make up their own minds on marijuana policy."

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