For all the entrepreneurs, business owners, and professionals who stand to benefit from a legal marijuana market, there are plenty of others who have a lot to lose. And they’re fighting reform tooth and nail.
But who are they? And what are they doing to stop voters from legalizing cannabis in states from California to Maine?
Not surprisingly, the U.S. alcohol industry has a big stake in the outcome of marijuana reform. And it is pumping money into the cause at a rate to match.
The reasons for this are obvious, mostly. Booze is by far America’s most popular intoxicating drug, generating more than $200 billion in sales each year, almost all of it legal. In fact, the very legality of alcohol is the larger part of its appeal.
But marijuana is provably safer than booze, and given a choice, many regular drinkers would likely pick weed. Alcohol kills thousands of Americans each year, but there is no such thing as a fatal cannabis overdose.
Big Booze pumped big money into anti-legalization efforts, especially in Massachusetts, where an industry trade group gave $25,000 to a political committee set up to fight a ballot initiative in that state.
Arizona, California, Maine, and Nevada also voted on legalization Nov. 8. The beer, wine, and spirits industries also fought cannabis reform in those states.
Some of the strongest opposition to legal marijuana comes from the pharmaceutical industry. The reason is simple: Some of these corporate drug manufacturers hope to patent and sell synthetic forms of pot that would compete aginst the real thing.
If Big Pharma could stop legalization (it can’t), it would ensure that all THC medication, including traditional cannabis bud, would require approval from the FDA before reaching patients. This in turn would allow the government to limit prescriptions to tightly controlled synthetic formulas and ban traditional medical cannabis outright.
The makers of Subsys – a potent prescription painkiller made from fentanyl – donated $500,000 to fight legalization in Arizona. They worked quietly elsewhere, too, along with other drug makers that stand to lose billions in future revenue to legal pot.
Why on Earth would the casino industry care about legal cannabis? If anti-legalization contributions by gambling magnates are any guide, it’s all about profit.
Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson, for one, poured $3.5 million into opposition campaigns across the country this year, much of it spent in Nevada. Adelson and his fellow casino owners have an interest in discouraging legal marijuana use, since alcohol is much more conducive to impulsive gambling: Drunk people play slot machines, while stoners stay in and order room service.
What do you think: Who poses the greatest danger to the future of marijuana reform? Does the outcome of the 2016 election change your answer? Leave a comment below and let us know.