Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey are calling on Congress to pass laws that block Amazon, Big Tobacco, and global alcohol conglomerates from monopolizing the US cannabis industry.
The Senators addressed the crowd at the Federal Cannabis Policy Crash Course, a half-day event that warned about major corporations' plans to dominate the weed industry. The event was organized by the Parabola Center for Law and Policy, a new equity-focused organization founded by former Massachusetts cannabis commissioner Shaleen Title. In addition to pre-recorded videos from the two lawmakers, the event featured speakers from the Drug Policy Alliance, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, and several other leading advocacy groups.
“Already, aspiring weed billionaires and powerful corporations like Amazon and Altria (aka Philip Morris) are hounding Congress to pass bills that would let them be the first to profit from federal legalization— leaving behind small business owners and the many communities that were torn apart by decades of overpolicing,” Parabola explained. “It's time to fight back. Parabola Center is bringing together a group of the country’s top drug policy experts to dissect the current political landscape and chart a better course toward comprehensive federal cannabis reform that centers all of us, not Wall Street gamblers.”
Shortly before the event, Parabola released an “anti-monopoly toolkit” that provides practical advice on state and federal cannabis policies. The document advises lawmakers to cap the total number of weed business licenses that any one individual or corporation can receive. Parabola also warns against the dangers of allowing major tech firms to dominate the market, as they can easily promote their own products over those offered by small businesses. The toolkit also advocates for legal home grows, allowing people to completely sidestep corporate cannabis products if they so choose.
“We know that legalization alone is not enough,” Sen. Warren said in a video that was played at the event, Marijuana Moment reports. “We need to ensure that the communities most harmed by the war on drugs are at the front of the line for reaping the benefits of legalization and we need to legalize in a way that avoids Big Tobacco and alcohol corporations or retail giants from dominating the cannabis market. Because if it is left to its own devices, the industry is gonna head in that direction.”
Back in 2021, Amazon became the first major US company to completely suspend cannabis-related drug testing for most of its employees. The shipping megacorp even registered as an official cannabis lobbyist, allowing it to weigh in on the cannabis legalization bills that are being discussed in Congress. But although these new policies are helping further destigmatize weed in the workplace, insiders believe that Amazon's interest in cannabis reform is purely for its own financial benefit.
“We’re already seeing some of those companies like Amazon lobbying for cannabis legalization,” Warren said in her video, according to Marijuana Moment. She also emphasized that she was “deeply skeptical that Amazon’s lobbying is anything more than a self-interested move to monopolize yet another market, potentially blocking Black and Latino entrepreneurs from an emerging industry.”
Parabola lobbied Congress to include anti-monopoly provisions in the MORE Act, a federal legalization bill that passed the House in 2020, and is urging lawmakers to add these protections to other bills. But even though Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is planning to bring his own federal legalization bill back this year, it still seems highly unlikely that either Biden or Congress is ready to sign off on full federal cannabis reform just yet.