After years in the political wilderness, marijuana lobbyists find themselves in a strange position as 2014 approaches: Suddenly their power and support are growing, lawmakers are courting them, and the prospects look brighter to build on major progress the movement made in 2012.
Last year, voters in Colorado and Washington legalized recreational use of marijuana, the first states to do so. Those victories have bestowed new legitimacy on the cannabis community, giving it a better field on which to fight. By engaging in political-money games, endorsing candidates, confederating cannabis-related businesses, and old-fashioned lobbying, the pot movement is working to expand the playing field to more states and confront the federal government’s long-standing and entrenched opposition to marijuana infrastructure head on. Campaigners hope to make legalization the sort of social issue candidates have to take a stand on, just as gay marriage and abortion before it became crucial litmus tests.
“We have a bunch of stereotypes about the marijuana movement and lobbying effort as a bunch of college kids who want to smoke weed,” says John Hudak, a fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. “The marijuana lobby is coming out of the shadows from this avant-garde movement to people who are thinking about legalization in a very rational, serious, and empirical way.” [Read more…]