The “patchwork” of state marijuana laws being enacted across the country while federal prohibition remains unchanged is enabling large corporations to dominate the industry, harming communities that have been “decimated” by the drug war and underscoring the need for federal reform, a Democratic senator says.
In a prerecorded video set to be played at an upcoming event on combating monopolization in the cannabis industry, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) said that the existing state-by-state regulatory framework “creates confusion and barriers that big business exploits to make big bucks at the expense of communities already decimated by the war on drugs.”
The clip offers a preview of the types of conversations that advocates, small business owners and lawmakers will be having at a “crash course” on federal cannabis policy on Saturday at the Boston Public Library. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) will also make a statement in a video that will be played at the event.
Join us this Saturday to chart a new course for federal legalization that focuses on people, not corporate profits. We’ll hear from cannabis experts, law professors, and national leaders like Senator Ed Markey.
Tickets: https://t.co/NHtUJa2lVZ pic.twitter.com/iHGMTgF3JQ
— Parabola Center (@ParabolaCenter) June 7, 2023
The Federal Cannabis Policy Crash Course is being organized by the Parabola Center for Law and Policy, a think tank working to educate people about the potential ramifications of consolidated ownership in the marijuana sector.
“Monopolies are a product of concrete policy choices. As we move from this patchwork of state laws to one consistent set of standards, we can choose to promote fairness and competition and avoid a model that only works for a few massive companies, like Big Tobacco and Big Pharma,” Shaleen Title, founder and director of the Parabola Center, told Marijuana Moment.
“We can also choose to focus on aspects that often get left on the sidelines when profits are top priority—like protecting patients, keeping workers safe and prioritizing marginalized communities,” she said.
(Disclosure: Title supports Marijuana Moment’s work via a monthly Patreon pledge.)
Title added that the participation and support of top lawmakers “shows how much progress we’ve made,” with senators “standing up not just to end the prohibition of cannabis, but to replace it with a model that the public wants to see.”
Also attending this weekend’s event will be cannabis regulators from Massachusetts, New York City and Washington, D.C., as well as representatives of major marijuana advocacy groups like the Drug Policy Alliance, Marijuana Justice, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
Ahead of the crash course, Parabola released an “anti-monopoly toolkit” that provides an overview of state and federal policy priorities to prevent corporate consolidation that could threaten small cannabis businesses in the industry.
“What we’re demonstrating with this event is that there’s an alternative to the big corporate model currently being pushed by big conglomerates. It’s not prohibition, and it’s not giving up,” Title said. “Instead, we’re charting a better course that takes into account everything we’ve learned from state-level legalization and honors the people’s vision for legalization.”
In 2021, Parabola proposed changes to a House-passed federal marijuana legalization bill that sought to ensure that the market is equitable and empowers communities that have been most impacted by prohibition to benefit from the new industry.
Late last year, the center also sounded the alarm about the influence of the tobacco and alcohol industries in shaping federal cannabis reform and encouraging lawmakers to rethink the idea of modeling legal marijuana regulations after those that are in place for booze.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in April that he plans to reintroduce a comprehensive cannabis legalization bill, but its prospects of passage in a divided Congress, with Republicans in control of the House, are in question.
Instead, advocates are closely following to see what kind of incremental reform might be achievable this session, with a bipartisan cannabis banking bill expected to receive a Senate committee hearing later this month, for example.
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.