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Marijuana Lobby Grows As Legalization Spreads Throughout Country

Cannabis has already quasi-legal long enough in enough states for the industry to spawn its own specialized lobbyists.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As the cannabis legalization movement continues to score victories across the country, the number of lobbyists for the industry continues to grow.

Sean Gallup | Getty Images

They will descend May 16 and 17 on Washington to speak with members of Congress about changing federal laws on marijuana. That, of course, includes legalization at the federal level, but also banking rules that keep banks for providing services to cannabis businesses.

The event, called the Cannabis Industry Lobby Days, is sponsored by the National Cannabis Industry Association. Founded in 2010, the association refers to itself as the only national association representing cannabis businesses at the federal level.

 “With victories in eight states across the country during the 2016 presidential election, as well as the challenges ahead of us as we see a new administration come into the White House, fixing federal policies is more critical than ever,” according to the association website.

The growth of the association tells a story of its own. At the beginning of 2013, the association had 118 members. Now, that number totals more than 800.

Related: How Do We Measure the Statistical Significance of Legal Cannabis?

Former government regulators

The NCIA is just one sign of the growth of the industry. Many other lobbyists have formed their own consulting businesses after leaving government agencies where they once oversaw regulation of the marijuana industry. Much like other industries, from defense to financial services, former regulators now try to influence public policy.

According to The Hill, which focuses on covering politics and lobbyists in the nation’s capital, former government officials have set up consulting firms to advise both private businesses and local governments on cannabis regulations. Also, a former marijuana regulator in Colorado now heads the state’s Cannabis Chamber of Commerce.

“That’s how America works. You work for the government, then you become a lobbyist,” Ian Eisenberg, who runs the Uncle Ike’s dispensary in Seattle, told The Hill.

Related: Congressional Cannabis Caucus Unites to Protect Marijuana Industry

Lone Star State Lobby

Perhaps no better sign for the continued acceptance of marijuana and the focus of lobbying groups is bigger than Texas, a long-time “red state” that has not legalized medical marijuana, much less recreational marijuana.

Marijuana lobbyists in Texas set aside Feb. 22 to come to the state capital in Austin to support legalized medical marijuana. Much of group that showed up were veterans seeking the right to use legal cannabis for the treatment of post-traumatic stress syndrome.

They are part of an organization called Operation Trapped, which advocates marijuana as an alternative to prescription drugs.

The group delivered a letter signed by 1,400 veterans asking Gov. Greg Abbott to support legalized medical marijuana. Bills already have been filed in both houses of the Texas Legislature seeking approval of medical marijuana, which already is legal in 28 states and the District of Columbia.

The growing support and lobby for legal marijuana in Texas seems to have worked. A new poll from the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune shows that 83 percent of Texans support legalized marijuana for some use, while 53 percent support it for recreational use.

Just two years ago, 34 percent of Texans opposed marijuana for anything but medical use, while 24 percent opposed legalizing it for any reason.

Related: Cannabis Medicinals Sales Expected to Reach $2 Billion by 2020

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