For years, advocacy groups have largely been responsible for pushing and funding cannabis reform efforts across the country. Such groups have traditionally funded reform initiatives to collect signatures and eventually get cannabis initiatives on the ballot, especially when the industry was in its infancy.
However, data from November’s election shows that cannabis companies have swiftly overtaken advocacy groups in the funding of marijuana reform efforts in America. Campaign finance records show that the cannabis industry essentially funded all five cannabis legalization initiatives that were on the ballot in last year’s midterm elections.
Campaigns to legalize adult-use cannabis in Missouri, Maryland, Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota raised almost $20 million combined with at least $10.05 million coming from businesses in the cannabis industry.
This was a stark difference from 10 or so years ago when cannabis legalization campaigns were largely funded by wealthy individuals and advocacy groups. It is representative of just how much the industry has grown in a little more than a decade, going from zero to a valuation of $33 billion in a relatively short time. Thanks to nearly limitless demand from consumers, cannabis businesses have sold tens of billions of dollars’ worth of cannabis products to cannabis consumers in legal states across the country.
Given that a majority of consumers still buy cannabis from the black market, the potential for growth could be immense if businesses manage to entice these consumers from the illegal market.
Businesses are now putting their weight behind cannabis initiatives that would expand the market and give it much more comprehensive regulations. The shift from advocacy groups to industry players has also been accompanied by a change in priorities.
Medical cannabis companies are pushing for limited-license markets in recreational cannabis states compared to prior advocacy-led campaigns that first asked voters whether cannabis should be regulated like alcohol before providing details later.
According to Marijuana Policy Project president and CEO Toi Hutchison, cannabis is now a “burgeoning industry that exists” and is past the need for initiatives about whether it should be taxed and regulated as is alcohol.
Groups such as the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, DC, and the Drug Policy Alliance in New York played an instrumental role in cannabis legalization efforts in Colorado and Washington states.
They have now passed the torch of legal change to the industry and moved on to other efforts such as the decriminalization of other controlled drugs and the legalization of psychedelics.
Given the immense challenges that the burgeoning cannabis industry faces, including lack of mainstream financing which has resulted in the creation of entities such as REZYFi Inc. to partially address this unmet need, it is only natural that the marijuana industry will roll up its sleeves and work to see reforms enacted across the country so that essential needs can start being attended to at a policy level.
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