US marijuana industry businesses are now profitable enough to become major political donors that support marijuana-friendly candidates and ballot questions.
Congress members who once politely returned the marijuana industry businesses’ contribution checks are now keeping them. Some new marijuana business political activities include fancy fundraisers at Four Seasons hotels and art auctions hosted at law firms.
“We’re developing an industry here from the ground up. If we don’t contribute politically and get out there with the candidates, we can’t help shape what happens,” said Patrick McManamon, of Cannasure Insurance Services, which provides insurance coverage to marijuana cultivation centers and dispensaries.
Medical marijuana businesses have been giving contributions to candidates since the late 90s, but with the start of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington, the industry and its political clout are expanding quickly.
Marijuana is currently legal for medical or recreational use in 23 states and Washington, D.C. New marijuana measures will be on November ballots in Alaska, Florida, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. Many contributions are being funneled at those upcoming campaigns and the candidates that support them.
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is one of the largest marijuana advocacy contributors and is expected to donate around$150,000 to federal candidates in 2014, up from $110,000 in 2013. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and the Drug Policy Alliance also contribute directly to federal candidates. And tax-exempt marijuana industry groups such as the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) can contribute an unlimited amount of untraceable money.