Marijuana has moved into the big times.
Officials with the Marijuana Policy Project, the largest pro-cannabis organization in the United States, announced Feb. 26 that they had bought spacious new office space for their lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C.
Their new digs are located just a couple miles north of the White House. The office suite, 4,040 square feet, covers almost the entire first floor of a residential building.
The mortgage cost $664,000, said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. The group is soliciting contributions to help pay the cost. Kampia offered his usual best selling point to urge donations: Money given to the organization goes to fight marijuana prohibition.
The purchase is a sign of just how much the times are changing, and of how much more seriously cannabis proponents are being taken in political circles. The Marijuana Policy Project plans to use the space, and a new rooftop deck, to lobby lawmakers in its quest to legalize weed.
NORML may have better name recognition, at least among the uninitiated, but the Marijuana Policy Project is the 800-pound gorilla in the world of pot policy and lobbying. It’s the largest organization that works entirely on cannabis reform and played a major role in Colorado’s vote to legalize weed in 2012.
Events in the marijuana community, which seemed to be advancing slowly in the years after medical cannabis first became legal in California, has taken a rather sudden turn for the rapid in recent months. And the Marijuana Policy Project has taken a stand right in the middle of those events.
The group is pushing a plan to legalize 10 more states by 2017, from Alaska and California to Maine and New Hampshire. Momentum is already on marijuana’s side in Alaska, where voters will decide whether to make weed legal in August. Odds in other states look good, too.
The Marijuana Policy Project plays an active role in public discussions of marijuana use and safety. During the Super Bowl, the organization bought billboard ads near MetLife Stadium in New Jersey touting the safety of weed versus alcohol – and football.
Weed-related developments in the United States are moving ever more insistently toward the nation’s capital, making a significant presence there even more important. Just this January, The New Yorker quoted President Obama in January saying cannabis is safer than alcohol.
Pressed, the president hinted he might support a reclassification of the drug, which could eventually allow for federal legalization. Though pot is legal in Colorado and Washington State and allowed for medical purposes in 19 other states plus D.C., it remains illegal under federal law, primarily because it’s classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance.
Schedule 1 is reserved for the most dangerous, most addictive and least medically useful drugs. Changing that designation would take an act of Congress or the DEA. The anti-drug agency is especially unlikely to budge, so many, including Obama, have pointed to lawmakers as the best source of reform.
Now it will be easier for the Marijuana Policy Project to bend the ear of all these players. Above all, the real estate purchase is evidence of how much more respectable weed has already become, and of how much more power it commands.