A record 167 firms spent millions of dollars lobbying on cannabis as Amazon, investment banks, and tobacco companies race for a piece of the growing weed industry

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A record number of special interests that for the first time included tech giant Amazon lobbied on cannabis from April to June this year as legalization talks heated up on Capitol Hill, an Insider analysis of new lobbying disclosures found. 

The more than 167 groups that lobbied on cannabis during the second quarter of this year is an increase from 147 that spent their influence dollars on the issue during the first quarter of this year. It’s also a jump from the 162 interests that lobbied on cannabis during the second quarter of 2020. 

Amazon, which publicly announced support for federal cannabis legalization last month for the first time, spent $5 million in the second quarter lobbying on this and other issues. The company had not previously lobbied on cannabis legalization, according to an Insider review of past disclosures. 

Wall Street analysts say the legal cannabis market could be worth over $100 billion in the US alone by the end of the decade, and corporations from the medical, consumer, and financial services sectors are all competing for a slice — and the ability to shape how the industry is regulated from the start. 

It’s difficult to know the exact dollar amount spent specifically on weed lobbying because companies are only required to broadly disclose their influence expenditures and often bundle them with other issues they pushed for at the same time.

The latest lobbying increase coincides with the months leading up to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other top Democrats unveiling a plan to decriminalize, tax, and regulate cannabis. 

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The outside legalization push came not only from cannabis companies but from alcohol and tobacco interests that want a share of the market. They include investment banks and companies like PayPal, and even from health and veterans’ groups.

New clients and well-connected lobbyists 

Federal cannabis lobbying began accelerating in 2019, when Democrats, who tend to be more supportive of legalization, took control of the House. At least 22 cannabis-linked interests newly registered to lobby during the first half of this year, which is double the number that registered to lobby during the entirety of 2020. 

Among those who entered the fray during the second quarter were medical marijuana companies ​Ayr Wellness, Prime Venture Capital, and DBL Ventures. 

Those companies all picked Florida-based lobbying firm Ballard Partners, which had already been working on behalf of medical marijuana company Trulieve, to represent them. The firm was founded by Brian Ballard, a longtime friend and fundraiser for former President Donald Trump. 

Ballard opened an office in Washington, DC, when Trump became president and his firm thrived there. It however lost clients when Trump did not win re-election. Ballard Partners has since staffed up with several new lobbyists who have ties to Democrats. 

The world’s largest cannabis companies also increased their lobbying footprint. Constellation …read more

Source:: Businessinsider – Politics

      

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