NEW YORK (AP) – Major cannabis companies are supporting a new celebrity campaign to encourage marijuana users to pressure members of Congress to legalize marijuana nationwide.
Federal legalization has made some headway, but Capitol Hill is still facing major hurdles. The Cannabis in Common initiative, launched on Tuesday, aims to change this situation.
The website allows supporters to send emails or call their congressional representatives and push for the legalization of marijuana. Government-licensed potting companies also plan to send their customers emails, display posters in stores, add information to their apps, and otherwise encourage consumer participation.
“The legalization of cannabis is long overdue, and if we make enough noise, we can achieve it,” says actor Seth Rogen, co-founder of a cannabis company and an avid user of the drug, in the opening video.… Comedian Sarah Silverman voices another animated promo…
Eighteen states and Washington, D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana use by adults, and a voter-approved measure in South Dakota’s 19th state is pending in court. More than two-thirds of states allow medical marijuana.
But marijuana remains illegal under federal law to own, use, or sell, which is why many banks avoid receiving money from the cannabis industry for fear of subjecting them to federal litigation.
This conflict has deprived many legitimate manufacturers and sellers of day-to-day financial services, such as opening bank accounts or obtaining credit cards. It also forced many businesses to operate only with cash, making them mature targets for crime.
Pro-legalization groups have campaigned at the state and federal levels for years, and supporters are divided over Cannabis Shared. which is not focused on any particular piece of legislation. The organizers say this opens up new opportunities by actively engaging major industry players and mobilizing their clients.
“We just feel like there is a larger, unengaged group of people that we would love to see,” said Steve Hawkins, CEO of the US Cannabis Council, a coalition led by the industry campaigning with HeadCount, a voter registration group. The council declined to name the cost.
According to Jeremy Unruh, Senior Vice President of PharmCann Inc., while cannabis companies are lobbying one-to-one, this new effort “embraces all the sins that every interest in weed brings to the table” in the hopes of breaking through the patchwork of government legislation. … which has dispensaries in six states.
More than two dozen companies have signed up to it, including the vaping brand Pax and public corporations such as Canopy Growth, Curaleaf Holdings, and the Cronos Group.
The attempt quickly drew criticism from the national anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana. CEO Kevin Sabet, a former Obama administration official, called the campaign “a blatant example of public health benefits.”
Several non-profit legalization groups are joining the Cannabis in Common initiative. But others stay away.
The Drug Policy Alliance considers the campaign to be overly corporate and insufficiently dedicated to eradicating past beliefs about marijuana and helping the communities and people who bear the brunt of the marijuana arrests.
“For us, it’s not just about getting federal legalization before the finish line,” says Maritza Perez of the alliance, which formed the non-profit Marijuana Justice Coalition in 2018 to promote legalization in conjunction with other reforms. “We have a very specific group of people that we are fighting for, and these are the people who are under the ban.”
Political director Justin Streckal said NORML, one of the oldest legalization groups in the country, is not participating in the new campaign and is focusing on specific congressional proposals to make marijuana legal at the federal level.
Last year, the House of Representatives passed a proposal to decriminalize and tax marijuana, abolish federal marijuana convictions, and channel marijuana tax money to communities affected by the “war on drugs.” The measure was reintroduced at the new Congress this year and was recently adopted again by a key committee.
President Joe Biden said he supports the decriminalization of marijuana and the removal of past convictions for marijuana use, but he did not support federal legalization of the drug.
A Gallup poll released last week found that 68% of Americans are in favor of legalization, including 83% of Democrats, 71% of independents, and 50% of Republicans. A survey of 823 adults had a sampling margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Pointing to such polls, the new campaign cites legalization as a problem that overcomes political divisions and has new potential in a Democratic-led Congress.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (New York County) became the first House Leader to support the legalization of marijuana in July.promising to “make it a priority in the Senate,” where Senator Corey Booker of New Jersey and Ron Weiden of Oregon drafted the bill.
Legalization advocates hope Vice President Kamala Harris said ahead of her election that federal legalization of marijuana is a “smart move.”
But opponents of legalization point out that it is unclear if all Democrats in the Senate will vote to legalize marijuana, let alone find enough Republican supporters to avoid obstruction. Otherwise, Congress is preoccupied with massive social services and climate change legislation ahead of next year’s midterm elections.