Marijuana legalization advocates are hiring more lobbyists and otherwise ramping up their efforts to influence drug policy on Capitol Hill.
The weed industry’s lobbying efforts increased significantly between the first and second quarters of 2023, rising from $1.04 million to $1.39 million. Cannabis Freedom Alliance, a coalition of groups seeking to end federal prohibitions on weed, recently hired the Bose Public Affairs Group to lobby Congress on marijuana reform issues, according to lobbying disclosures.
Voters in Ohio approved a ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana on Nov. 7. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the group behind the ballot measure, spent $5.2 million on efforts to legalize weed in Ohio, according to expenditure records maintained by the Ohio secretary of state.
Cannabis Freedom Alliance includes groups like the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, Koch-backed libertarian organizations like the Reason Institute and Students for Liberty as well as pro-marijuana advocacy groups.
Charles Koch, CEO of Koch Industries, has long backed marijuana legalization, spending millions on legalization efforts. Cannabis Freedom Alliance itself launched with the support of Koch, according to the Hill.
Koch initially got the idea to launch Cannabis Freedom Alliance on a Zoom call with Snoop Dogg and another hip-hop artist, Vice reported.
The bump in lobbying activity among marijuana groups coincided with The Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation Banking Act, a bipartisan bill that would provide legal protection to banks that serve marijuana businesses in states where the substance is legal, being advanced by the Senate Banking Committee.
Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for recreational and medical use, according to the Hill.
Deep-pocketed groups like Bank of America, the National Rifle Association, and Mastercard spent money lobbying on the bill, Forbes reported.
As the lobbyists advocate for loosened restrictions on marijuana usage, some recent research has raised concerns about the substance’s effects on the mental and physical health of users.
Two studies presented at an academic conference earlier this month found that cannabis usage increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, building on other recent studies that found usage of the substance to be associated with the development of schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.
“Prior research shows links between marijuana use and cardiovascular disease like coronary artery disease, heart failure and atrial fibrillation, which is known to cause heart failure,” Dr. Yakubu Bene-Alhasan, the lead researcher on one of the studies presented at the conference, said. “Marijuana use isn’t without its health concerns, and our study provides more data linking its use to cardiovascular conditions.”
Cannabis Freedom Alliance could not be reached for comment.
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