Lobbying Washington, D.C. to Make the Real Green Deals
Cannabis and hemp have joined major players like the NRA and agriculture in the D.C. lobbying scene to push for legalization, the reversal of past convictions, banking rights, and fair taxation. Lobbyists seek to convince members of the government to enact legislation that would benefit their group, getting a lot of bad press in the process. The truth is our system depends upon them.
The Importance of Lobbyists
An elected official cannot be an expert on every type of business in their state. Furthermore, their staff would be inefficiently starting from scratch each time they needed to research an issue if they had to do it all in-house. Lobbyists, in contrast, get to know their industries inside and out. They know what’s essential, and what’s negotiable–ensuring significant players don’t get screwed by uninformed legislative decisions. They can also play the role of negotiator for sector leaders busy running their respective companies and politicians who need to stay with administrators to draft law.
Marijuana businesses need lobbyists who understand how to navigate the legislative climate–building relationships with the right officials who will get laws approved. After years of prohibition and black market activity, cannabis figures haven’t yet had the time to foster longstanding relationships with politicians. Lobbyists with history in other sectors can lend their expertise working with lawmakers as they learn the finer points of the hemp and cannabis businesses. Several key groups have emerged to pool funds and resources towards protecting their political interests, with fiscal and membership support being strong for both marijuana and hemp markets.
National Hemp Association
The National Hemp Association (NHA) is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the development of the domestic hemp industry. They state their goal will be accomplished by coordinating legislation, agricultural organizations, farmers, processors, manufacturers, and retailers. They have hired public affairs firm Grayling to, in their words, “develop close relationships with government agencies to establish regulations that benefit the hemp industry across the nation.“
Grayling lacks team members with cannabis experience, but they make up for it with their political acumen. For example, Grayling NHA team member Steve Perry has significant experience in telecommunications and technology which has led to leadership roles in the passage of laws ranging from the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to the Middle-Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2013.
The NHA was heavily involved in hemp’s inclusion in the 2018 Farm Bill, using Grayling to connect with pivotal members of Congress.
National Cannabis Industry Association
The National Cannabis Association represents more than 10,000 member-businesses and cannabis professionals. They lobbied for access to equal banking & fair tax policies to the tune of a half a million dollars in 2018 alone. According to the Center for Responsible Politics, they paid two DC firms, Federal Advocates ($220,000) and VS Strategies ($45,000), to lobby on Capitol Hill in addition to their own efforts.
Canndescent also hired Federal Advocates, paying them $360,000 last year. Canndescent is the number one luxury cannabis flower brand in California. Helmed by Harvard alum Adrien Sedlin and heavily backed by venture capitalists, Canndescent secured an additional thirteen million dollars in 2018 to launch a line of vape products and pursue ventures in other states. The new state ventures made Canndescent’s federal interests a much more urgent matter for their investors.
New Federalism Fund
The National Cannabis Association was rivaled only by the 501(c) New Federalism Fund who spent a reported $426,316 on their attempts to change federal tax law and create an equitable tax system for legal cannabis businesses. The paid $200,000 to enlist the help of law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck who’s deep connections in Washington, DC made their revenue number two in the country in 2017 amongst lobbyists. It’s vital for the emerging cannabis industry to gain access to banking for multiple reasons. Companies need an efficient way to move funds, and the common practice of armored guard services shuttling bags of cash around legal states is archaic and inefficient. Business to business and retail customers are also inconvenienced by cash only exchanges in the digital age. Modern banking practices will add a layer of security vital for the healthy base of the marijuana industry. Before companies can scale optimally, they need the implementation of bank and credit systems.
The Marijuana Policy Project
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) filed $225,000 towards direct federal influence utilizing lobbyist Dan Riffle in 2018. The MPP backs state and federal candidates who will advocate for legalizing medical marijuana, decriminalizing marijuana use and/or regulating the substance similar to alcohol. A veteran of the scene like NORML, the organization has been the source of $441,760 in contributions to mostly-democratic federal candidates from the 1998 election cycle through the first three quarters of 2015, The overwhelming bulk of the money – $426,110 – has come from the group’s PAC.
Agriculture ($57m), Tobacco ($23m), and Food ($22m) are just a few of the industries that far surpass the lobbyist money coming from marijuana and hemp, which means their influence can only be so great, but it is there. Not only that but marijuana and hemp have something going for them many other areas don’t, the public opinion. For example, Tobacco needs lobbyists desperately because public sentiment is as a majority against it. This same public demands votes for cannabis reform and has elevated CBD into $1 billion industry in 2018. Tobacco farmers are actually converting many of their farms to hemp cultivation. The crop yields a healthy dietary protein and fiber, a textile, and CBD-rich essential oil. It also self-pollinates and is better for the surrounding environment than tobacco.
America has already witnessed poor recreational policy implementation in states like California, so there is a precedent for wanting to make sure issues such as taxation don’t get fumbled. I expect the hemp industry to make some significant political strides for cannabis as a whole over the next two years thanks to help from Washington, D.C. lobbyists. I will be excited to watch the sibling industries work together to cultivate a better world.
“About.” Americans for Safe Access. https://www.safeaccessnow.org/about_asa.
“The Center for Responsive Politics.” OpenSecrets.org. https://www.opensecrets.org/news/issues/marijuana/.
“Lobbying Spending Database Marijuana, 2018.” OpenSecrets.org. https://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/indusclient.php?id=N09.
Margolin, Madison. “Canndescent Writes a New Chapter in Cannabis History with the Stylus Vape Pen.” Civilized. https://www.civilized.life/articles/canndescent-writes-a-new-chapter-in-cannabis-history-with-the-stylus-vape-pen/.
“Mission and Goals.” National Hemp Association. https://nationalhempassociation.org/association/.
Staff, MJBizDaily. “California Marijuana Company Canndescent Closes $13 Million Funding round.” Marijuana Business Daily. September 06, 2018. https://mjbizdaily.com/california-marijuana-company-canndescent-closes-13-million-funding-round/.
“Washington D.C. Team.” National Hemp Association. http://nationalhempassociation.org/national-campaign-team/.