When it comes to anti-cannabis laws in the U.S., there are a handful of industries that are working extremely hard to keep marijuana illegal.
Very often, people in favor of anti-marijuana laws say the laws are about health and safety. But that picture starts to change when you dig into the details.
To begin with, the entire history of marijuana prohibition is a sketchy one to say the least.
Many people argue that cannabis was originally outlawed in order to keep hemp textiles off the market.
Others point out that anti-marijuana laws have been designed to give police a reason to target certain groups of people.
Reports that surfaced last week support this claim. In those reports, one of President Nixon’s top aides admitted that the War on Drugs was created to target anti-war activists and black people.
And that’s still how these laws usually work. A report published last month found that black people are far more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people.
Given this history, we have to question why marijuana is still illegal.
Here are the industries working hard to keep marijuana illegal:
The War on Drugs has been a huge money-maker for law enforcement. Police departments can get extra funding if they bust more people for drug crimes. And the ability to seize property during raids can also be extremely profitable.
Given all this, it shouldn’t be surprising that police unions spend a lot of money lobbying to keep marijuana illegal.
According to one report, the National Fraternal Order of Police has spent at least $220,000 to lobbying every year since 2008.
The National Association of Police Organizations spends at least $160,000 per year. The International Union of Police Associations spends $80,000 a year. And the International Association of Chiefs of Police spends another $80,000 per year.
Private Prison Companies
Since the 1970s, building and running prisons has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry. But it only works if there are enough prisoners to fill the prisons.
That’s why private prison companies are working hard to keep marijuana illegal.
The Corrections Corporation of America spends at least $970,000 every year on lobbying efforts. A significant portion of those efforts is focused on keeping marijuana illegal.
Prison Guard Unions
Like the companies that run prisons, the people who work in prisons also rely on a steady stream of prisoners.
It isn’t surprising to learn how much prison guard unions spend on lobbying efforts.
A huge number of prison guards are represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
In 2014 that union gave more than $11 million to political candidates and organizations. It also spent $2.4 million lobbying.
Marijuana is currently defined by federal law as a substance with no proven medical benefits. But a growing body of scientific evidence is finding that cannabis could actually be used for a number of medical purposes.
Apparently, big pharma would rather not have the competition.
In 2014, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America devoted more than $16 million to lobbying efforts.
The Alcohol Industry
Big pharma doesn’t want competition from medical marijuana. And it seems like big alcohol companies don’t want to compete with recreational marijuana.
The alcohol industry spends at least $20 million lobbying every year. While much of that money is focused on alcohol-related taxes and laws, many experts have said it’s also working to keep marijuana illegal.
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