Marijuana Political Donations: A Fine Line Between Love and Hate

A marijuana lobby or super PAC? Unheard of. Until now — thanks in large part to regulation of marijuana businesses.

The legalization of marijuana is doing more than just creating new business opportunities, it is providing marijuana businesses with the need to project a strong and clear voice to lawmakers and state and federal representatives across the nation. At an increasing rate, marijuana businesses are giving (somewhat large) political donations to those in authority and, for the first time, at least openly, those in power are taking the hand-out.

These monetary connections bring up all sorts of issues.

First, if lawmakers and representatives take these funds, are they taking the “drug money” they’ve long loathed and publicly disparaged? Second, if lawmakers and representatives are taking these funds, does this not validate the arguments of the “anti” crowd? Does this not prove that corporate America has infiltrated the marijuana industry and turned it into the next Big Pharma or Big Tobacco.

The broad answer is that marijuana businesses are not hesitating to contribute to political campaigns and to candidates friendly to marijuana and its legalization. And as we all know, power comes from political funding

The Denver Post recently wrote about how marijuana groups have no problems with political fundraising:

The Oregon ballot measure has raised about $2.3 million. A medical-marijuana question in Florida has attracted nearly $6 million. And the Alaska campaign has brought in about $850,000 … Colorado’s congressional delegation alone has received some $20,000 this year from the marijuana industry, according to federal campaign-finance data. The true figure is probably much higher because many donors do not mention the drug in campaign-finance disclosures. The largest federal spender on marijuana advocacy is the Marijuana Policy Project, which plans to donate $150,000 to federal candidates this year, up from $110,000 in 2013.

Though the marijuana industry has made significant political strides, some lawmakers are still hesitant to admit to taking money from marijuana groups and some states prohibit marijuana businesses from financially contributing to political campaigns. For example, Illinois explicitly prohibits such activity. Does this not violate the First Amendment?

Political hypocrisy and antiquated freedom squelching laws aside, the political influence of the marijuana industry is growing — no pun intended.