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Cannabis Industry Cuts Lobbying Efforts In Washington Amid Federal Legalization Struggle

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The cannabis industry is scaling back its lobbying presence in Washington, facing financial woes due to marijuana's ongoing status of federal illegality.

Major players like Curaleaf Holdings Inc

CURLF have been compelled to slash their lobbying budgets by 40% in the first half of 2023 compared to 2019. Additionally, Columbia Care Inc

CCHWF and Pax Labs have disbanded their lobbying teams, while some industry coalitions are losing revenue or folding altogether, according to Stat News.

The absence of access to tax breaks, business loans and bank accounts has compounded these difficulties, prompting advocates to push for continued lobbying efforts despite the setbacks.

Aaron Smith, CEO of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), points out the irony in cutting back on government relations spending when advocacy is essential for the industry's success.

Though federal marijuana legalization bills are still being introduced, the cannabis sector is navigating a challenging landscape, making lobbying crucial for gaining political support and advancing its interests.

Addressing this situation, the U.S. Cannabis Council has emerged as a new coalition aiming to unify the industry's voice and advocacy efforts. By pooling significant funds for lobbying, the organization seeks to create a cohesive and effective message to lawmakers.

David Culver, the group's senior vice president of public affairs stresses the need for a unified industry voice, which is believed to yield greater success in shaping legislation and regulations.“We want to be a big tent organization (...) Everybody realizes that if we have a singular and unified industry voice (…) We’re gonna have a lot more success,” he said.

However, not everyone agrees that scaling back lobbying efforts is the right move. Smaller cannabis companies are grappling with reduced representation and funding as their lobbying capabilities decline.

Don Murphy, an independent lobbyist with experience at the Marijuana Policy Project, questions the decision to cut back, arguing "If they weren’t getting wins with lobbyists, how are they going to get wins without them? It’s like leaving the game in the third quarter."

As the landscape continues to evolve, it remains to be seen how the industry will navigate the complex terrain of federal marijuana legalization and secure its position in the ever-changing political landscape. If you are interested to know more about it consider joining us at the 17th edition of the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference, which is returning to Chicago on Sept 27-28. Get your tickets today before prices increase and secure a spot at the epicenter of cannabis investment and branding.


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