There is no doubt that federal law has a major impact on marijuana law reform efforts. In fact, not only does federal law affect what happens on a federal level, it also casts a dark shadow over efforts at the state level. Many state politicians balk at the very idea of marijuana law reform simply because it is illegal federally.
This means that if cannabis law reform efforts are ultimately to succeed, then the industry is going to have to gain some influence in the halls of power in Washington D.C. And for better or worse, the way to gain influence in D.C. is cold, hard $$$$.
Toward that end, the legal cannabis industry spent some $450,000 on lobbyists in the first half of 2017, twice the amount they spent in the same period in 2016. Almost half of that came from Scotts Miracle-Gro Co., the massive gardening products manufacturer. The $210,000 that Scotts spent on lobbying efforts in the first half of 2017 is already $90,000 more than they spent all of last year.
Of course, how much impact the extra money will have remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that lobbying at the federal level is a necessary step for the industry if it is to survive and grow. The United States federal government is massive, powerful and full of politicians who are not fans of legalization. Where reason fails to change minds, money often has a more robust effect.
“Whenever you see an industry that didn’t used to be regulated becoming regulated, you are going to see a lot of people wanting to influence those regulations,” said Sarah Bryner, Research Director for the Center for Responsive Politics, the group that compiled the marijuana industry’s lobbying money numbers cited above.
Which brings up a good point: once the federal government does recognize the existence of legal marijuana, an avalanche of regulations is sure to follow. The companies that get in on the ground floor of influence now – knocking down the door to legalization on the federal level – will reap the rewards of special favors when marijuana does become legal federally. It would be nice if that wasn’t the way things worked, and it would be nice if the feds didn’t have that much influence over an industry they kept illegal for 8 decades and counting, but this is the way things are.
Companies in the cannabis industry will either play the game as it is or get left behind.