Medical Marijuana Industry Faces Off Against Advocates for Full Legalization
Medical marijuana trade associations, dispensary owners and advocacy groups are concerned that full legalization of the drug will negatively impact their industry, according to Politico. In some cases, these groups are actively opposing state ballot initiatives and legislation that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
Medical marijuana is legal in 18 states. Recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado and Washington state, and activists hope to pass full legalization measures in six additional states by 2016, the article notes.
Medical marijuana businesses in states where recreational use of the drug is illegal benefit from exclusive monopolies on the right to sell the drug legally. Marijuana continues to be illegal under federal law.
This year, the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine opposed a state measure that would legalize possessing small amounts of the drug. The group said if the bill passed, criminal organizations would start to smuggle marijuana to neighboring states. They also opposed the bill’s tax plan, saying it was unfair and unworkable.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), which advocates for full legalization of the drug, argues medical marijuana groups oppose allowing wider use of the marijuana because they would lose money. “There are people who are benefiting financially and would prefer to see nothing change that,” said Erik Altieri, Communications Director for NORML’s northeast chapter.
Medical marijuana dispensary operators in Washington state opposed full legalization, saying the law would put them out of business. They also opposed a provision that allows cities to impose restrictive zoning codes on marijuana retailers, and objected to a standard for driving under the influence that would allow police to jail medical marijuana users even if they were not high.
Colorado’s new law included a provision allowing medical marijuana dispensaries the exclusive right to convert into recreational marijuana retailers before anyone else can apply for a license.