Pot Lobby Hits Capitol Hill to Rebound After Losses (1)

  • Schumer to speak at cannabis summit on 420 Day
  • Varied sectors have eye on lucrative pot market

(Updates with Senate action on cannabis bill. Previous version corrected.)

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The pot lobby, still reeling from a major setback last year, will push its case on Capitol Hill as part of Thursday’s 420 Day.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other lawmakers plan to speak at the National Cannabis Policy Summit’s congressional forum Thursday, a nod to its designation as an unofficial pot holiday. The day has served as a rallying cry for legalization and for efforts to overturn past drug convictions.

The 420 Day coincides with new lobbying disclosures, due Thursday night, that offer a glimpse of the cannabis industry’s influence efforts as the sector regroups after legislation collapsed in the last Congress that would have smoothed the way for marijuana businesses to park their profits in US banks.

Banks, insurance companies, candy makers, and cannabis groups all disclosed lobbying on cannabis and marijuana policy during the first quarter of this year, according to the newly filed lobbying disclosures with the House and Senate.


Cannabis lobbying, like the industry itself, has matured in recent years, and some of the biggest firms have set up practices.

The United States Cannabis Council, which represents cannabis companies as well as lobbying and law firms, dramatically scaled back its federal lobbying expenditures in the first quarter of this year, reporting $20,000, down from $220,000 for the same period last year. That decline reflects the council’s restructuring amid the legislative loss and spending will ramp back up, said David Culver, a US Cannabis Council board member.

The council’s main priority was the Safe Banking Act, which would have allowed banks to legally make transactions for marijuana business in states where such commerce is allowed. That is again the council’s top priority, Culver said.

“We believe there’s actually a very real chance that this is the Congress, and it’s going to get done,” Culver said.

The House, when Democrats controlled the chamber, passed the measure, but the Senate did not. This Congress, lobbyists are focusing on prodding the Senate initially, while trying to pave the way with the Republican-controlled House.

Andrew Freedman, who serves as executive director of the Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation, said he’s in Washington this week for 420 (which, he said, will include a happy hour where no cannabis will be served).

That group paid the lobbying firm Forbes Tate $50,000 in the first quarter of the year, according to a disclosure form. It also spent another $60,000 at two other firms, the Alpine Advisors and the Daschle Group where former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, (D-S.D.) is among the lobbyists working the issue.

“For us, it’s much more about long-term education on comprehensive regulation on this,” Freedman said.

Other groups and companies that disclosed lobbying on cannabis or marijuana issues include the National Cannabis Roundtable, which paid the firm Squire Patton Boggs $80,000 in the first quarter on a range of topics including overhauling “federal law and policy governing medical research, financial transactions, and tax deductions applicable to cannabis,” according to a disclosure.

Squire Patton Boggs is the home of perhaps, the best known marijuana advocate on K Street in recent years – former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

The Liaison Group focuses especially on cannabis policy and reported working for the National Cannabis Roundtable for more than $65,000 in the first quarter, with issues including “ensuring cannabis businesses have access to financial services.”

Insurance companies, including Unum and Lloyd’s of London, also disclosed that they were monitoring congressional activity on pot policy.

Public Strategies Washington, too, disclosed that it was monitoring “proposals relating to marijuana policy” for the National Confectioners Association, which represents the candy industry and monitors edible cannabis regulation.

The Senate is expected to vote Wednesday on whether to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to S. 326, which would direct the VA to study the effects of cannabis use on its patients diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder or chronic pain.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kate Ackley at kackley@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: George Cahlink at gcahlink@bloombergindustry.com; Bennett Roth at broth@bgov.com

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