Over the past decade, the cannabis industry has grown to a multi-billion dollar industry, succeeding in spite of federal laws that curtail countless aspects of running a canna-business. Much of the industry's initial growth occurred under the Obama administration, but politicians in Trump's White House, particularly AG Jeff Sessions, have rekindled the War on Drugs and threatened the growth of legal weed. Cannabis advocacy groups like NORML have been lobbying for cannabis reform for decades, but now canna-businesses are getting in on the game, funneling increasing amounts of cash into lobbying efforts aimed at convincing Republican lawmakers to protect their industry.
According to a new survey by USA Today, the cannabis industry has been giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to political action committees and campaign finance organizations over the past year. Cannabis-related political contributions were a rare sight before 2014, but cannabis advocates began pouring money into Democratic campaigns between 2014 and 2016. Last year, however, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened to crack down on state-legal cannabis, the cannabis industry redirected the majority of their financial support to Republican lawmakers who were willing to take a stand for legalization.
In 2016, the cannabis industry made around $100,000 in political contributions to support recreational cannabis laws, 60% of which went to Democrats, while 40% went to Republicans. Last year, the numbers reversed dramatically, with over $50,000 in contributions made to Republicans, and under $15,000 made to Democrats. These contributions are tiny compared to the amount that alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceutical companies spend on lobbying Congress, but the recent increase in political contributions suggests that the cannabis industry will continue to increase its spending in order to protect itself from federal intervention.
California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, one of the most active proponents of cannabis reform in Congress, told USA Today that he has seen a significant increase in cannabis lobbying efforts over the past several years. The cannabis industry has "a lot to learn," Rohrabacher said. "But they're learning it because they're here now. The voters of those states have granted them the title of legitimate businessmen."