Cannabis licensing issues are set to become the next battlefield in the US as legalization becomes more likely, reports CBD-Intel
With the majority of anti-cannabis users appearing to have accepted the eventual inevitability of some form of legalization, attention now turns to attempts to influence the shape of a possible future regime.
Traditional adversary industries like pharmaceuticals and alcohol have recently changed at least part of their lobbying strategy.
They are now trying to create limited licensing models that would benefit them as better funded companies by either dominating the market itself or limiting its impact on their core business interests.
John Kaweske, CEO of Tweedleaf, a Colorado medical and adult pharmacy chain, told CBD-Intel that outside government officials remain a threat to continued cannabis use.
By lobbying to limit licenses and introduce stricter licensing systems, companies that previously opposed cannabis are trying to create the kind of highly regulated, constrained market conditions for gamblers under which they already thrive. That is, they either beat back the competition by creating the conditions for artificially high prices, or they create a market into which they can enter themselves with considerable financial and experiential advantages.
“The concern of Special Interests is that they try to gain oligopoly-like advantages,” said Kaweske. “States with a restricted licensing model are simply un-American and violate free market principles.
“If the government creates a system of limited licenses and only issues those licenses to a small group of people, how does the American dream come true?”
Aside from concerns about allowing more people – especially those most disadvantaged by the decades-long war on drugs – to enjoy a slice of the lucrative cannabis pie, restricted licensing also hurts consumers directly as it leads to higher prices.
“In limited license states, the cost of cannabis is literally double what our consumers here in Colorado pay for the same product,” added Kaweske. “The consumer pays the price because of this restrictive market.”
But some of the larger cannabis companies can also benefit from limited licensing. This has created a messy situation with sometimes weird bedfellows.
For example, the Michigan Cannabis Manufacturers Association (MCMA), which represents some of the largest cannabis companies in Michigan, is campaigning for stricter regulations on medical cannabis caregivers and possibly more restrictions on home growing.
In essence, the MCMA wants to get as many sales as possible through licensed pharmacies for the benefit of its members.
However, current regulations allow medical cannabis keepers to support up to five patients, which can include growing as well as sourcing supplies from outside the pharmacy system.
This could mean growing up to 12 cannabis plants or purchasing up to 2.5 oz of product for the five patients, which could be combined with personal growing allowances if the caregiver is themselves registered as a medical cannabis patient to grow up to 72 plants.
The Michigan Medical Marijuana Association (MMMA) estimates that there are more than 36,000 registered nurses who could potentially care for a significant portion of the state’s 267,000 medical cannabis patients, according to the MMMA, removing them from the state’s licensed medical cannabis market, which is estimated to be around Estimated $ 1 billion.
The motivation for the companies that make up the MCMA to work to limit potential routes out of the market is obvious. MCMA members say they are concerned about the impact unregulated, unchecked and untaxed medical cannabis could have on consumers and government programs that rely on money.
But there have been calls from cannabis activists to boycott brands associated with membership of the trade group, including Fluresh, Two Joints, Jolly Edibles, North, Short’s Brewing, Petra, Wana, Sherbinski’s, Kiva Confections, DNA Genetics, Clout King , Chief Solventless and Crown Jewels.
Rick Thompson, owner of Michigan Cannabis Business Development Group, called any changes “unnecessary” and referred to the story of MCMA’s executive director Steve Linder.
“You have to acknowledge that Linder has been a real problem for the cannabis industry for years,” Thompson told the local media. “The consistent message from him and the MCMA was to put all cannabis sales under regulation.
“They want more sales to go through their stores. They advocate fundamentally changing the way nurses work to the extent that most of us believe that the program will be fundamentally changed and inoperable. “
The MCMA move puts them on the same side as pharmaceutical organizations that previously urged Michigan lawmakers to restrict nurse activity.
Similar activity can be seen on the recreational cannabis side.
A major problem for companies in states that allow alcohol and cannabis use on the same site is getting cities and other local jurisdictions to rewrite land use policies so that cannabis is visible. There’s also a problem with rewriting the zone restrictions so cannabis businesses can open in more desirable locations, according to House Caviar, a Los Angeles-based event planning company.
This has traditionally been opposed by the alcohol industry, which fears lost sales of cannabis in co-licensed locations, Antoinette Vu, co-founder of House Caviar, told CBD-Intel.
But local jurisdictions often prioritize tackling homelessness and unemployment in changes in land use policies – two social problems often linked to the war on drugs through convictions and other means.
This makes it easy for lobbyists to push other issues with public support and keep cannabis-related changes on the agenda, Vu added.
Ironically, many cannabis companies dealing with social issues such as homelessness and unemployment due to drug convictions could re-lobby on the same side of issues as those seeking to restrict cannabis licensing.
And the same shared loyalties can be seen at the federal level. Members of Congress have proposed several bills related to the legalization of cannabis, including:
- the highly progressive Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, which would remove cannabis from the controlled substances list
- the Moderately Progressive Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, a more progressive edition than the version passed by the House of Representatives last year
- the Common Sense Cannabis Reform For Veterans, Small Business, and Medical Professionals Act, which would replace the reinvestment and opportunity elements of the MORE Act with legalizing interstate cannabis trade, medical cannabis research, and providing access for military veterans.
Again, issues of social justice and opportunity lead to shared loyalties, with some in the industry advocating any kind of incremental change to slowly bring about a new federal cannabis regime. Others take the position of Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and are less opposed to action aimed at promoting broader legislation.
Some companies outside of the cannabis sector, such as Amazon, have publicly supported measures such as the MORE Act. Amazon declined to tell CBD-Intel whether it had backed its public support with money from lobbyists.
Similarly, Big Alcohol and Big Tobacco in particular are silent about their lobbying activities alongside general inclusive propaganda. However, there is a feeling that such companies would be at a disadvantage in terms of either dominance or the safeguarding of their core interests if the focus were on accessing and improving under-represented communities and limited businesses.
As a result, the general activity of traditional cannabis opponents remains worrying – not least because of their much larger war coffers. It has been estimated that cannabis lobbyists spent only $ 4 million on political advocacy last year, compared to the $ 60 million alcohol and tobacco groups contributed to all issues.
A survey of its members conducted by the national cannabis advocacy group NORML found that a majority of consumers do not support alcohol and tobacco companies that influence cannabis policy. A total of 77.6% said it was a problem, just under 47% said it was a big problem and the rest said it was only a problem “when companies advocate policies that address consumer issues There is a conflict ”.
“We have already seen the impact of these corporate interests,” said Erik Altieri, NORML’s Executive Director. “In some cases, many of these people have opposed consumer-friendly legalization regulations, such as the right for adults to grow marijuana in the privacy of their home.
“These business units have also pushed for statewide limits on the number of licensed cannabis producers and dealers to keep prices high and artificially limited – and keep the economic benefits of legalization largely out of the reach of the average American,” especially People of Color. “
What that means: NORML’s concerns are understandable. It is interesting to note that in terms of legalized territory and acceptance, cannabis is growing, it is also becoming more corporate.
Natty Suits and Flash Cars are rapidly replacing RVs and patchouli, potentially bringing the industry into greater conflict with itself – especially as parts of them realize they have more in common with the lobbying positions of former external opponents.
Vigorous prohibitionists are increasingly being sidelined. Even longtime traditional lobbyist opponents like Safe Approaches to Marijuana have changed course from advocating a ban to advocating restrictions while continuing to warn of potential dangers.
With increasing pressure to change at the federal level and in the remaining prohibition states, it will be interesting to see where the money is going and how issues such as licensing and land use develop.
What is clear for now is that there is unlikely to be a clear divide between those within the sector and those outside the sector.
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