Letters + Opinion » The Week in Weed

Not Feelin' the Bern



Marijuana advocates are not donating money to presidential campaigns at anywhere near the level of other causes, according to a recent International Business Times report.

The article starts by detailing how little marijuana groups have donated to Bernie Sanders — who's advocated for legalization on the campaign trail — compared to Rand Paul, the one-time Republican candidate who's also backed marijuana reform and who hauled in $24,500 in donations at a single 2015 fundraising event in Colorado. Sanders has received $1,000 from board members of prominent national marijuana advocacy groups.

Other lobbyists — for gun rights, alcohol and gay rights organizations — spent millions on the 2012 election. During the same cycle, the Times reports, marijuana groups spent $40,000 on presidential candidates.

The report floats several theories as to the lack of presidential candidate spending (we'll ignore the obvious joke here). First, marijuana advocates have a long history of getting medical and recreational marijuana passed on the state level, and that appears to be where the vast majority of campaign spending on the subject still lies. Still, as one expert pointed out, states where legalization has taken hold in the last several years are largely relying on executive memos urging Justice Department leniency on state-authorized marijuana; a new president could erode that tenuous support.

Another reason for the lack of presidential donating, the article surmises, is that the marijuana movement is "far from flush in cash" and lacking in affluent support. From a first glance inside the Emerald Triangle, that seems silly — we've seen an industry plenty flush in cash, and there's reason to believe growers vote against legalization knowing that prohibition is the very thing keeping their profit margins sky-high. It's also easy to imagine that the pot operations flourishing in Denver, Seattle and Portland have tightened their campaign purse strings since legalization took hold in their respective states. After all, the battle there is won, and pot-tourism is an undeniable moneymaker.

Still, while marijuana profits soar, there's little in the way of a unified national industry like big alcohol has built over decades. And on a national scale, it makes sense that marijuana legalization doesn't register high on the scale of timely causes. Medical marijuana has a foothold in nearly half the nation, and recreational marijuana doesn't have the social justice imperative that, say, same-sex marriage carries. And while the criminal justice system unevenly punishes minorities for marijuana crimes — justifying long overdue decriminalization — that's probably not much of a pet cause for the nation's affluent campaign donors.

In a first-of-its-kind move, Arcata medical marijuana dispensary the Humboldt Patient Resource Center recently was named the city's 2016 Business of the Year. The timing is notable — as the city voted recently to enact a business-friendly medical marijuana innovation zone and is looking into track-and-trace software for local cultivators and manufacturers, HPRC is moving quickly to comply with new state regulations while maintaining its standards and place in the community.

The dispensary has its own strict tracking and testing programs, and, according to a nomination for the award submitted by several members of the city's Economic Development Committee, "Humboldt Patient Resource Center is a longstanding member of our community and is internationally recognized within the medicinal cannabis community."


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