Ex-GOP lawmakers are face of marijuana blitz



Ex-GOP lawmakers are face of marijuana blitz Former Republican lawmakers are becoming the face of a new marijuana lobbying blitz. This year, both former Reps. R-Calif. and R-Fla. , who lost reelection bids in 2018, have signed on with marijuana companies. They are following former Speaker R-Ohio , who has been an active advocate for the cannabis industry since leaving Congress. For the booming industry, turning to former GOP lawmakers is an important step to expand their support in Congress. Curbelo became a strategic adviser for the Cannabis Trade Federation CTF , a nonprofit for cannabis education and advocacy, in February. Rohrabacher joined cannabis company BudTrader as a shareholder and advisory board member in May. retired from Congress in 2015 and in April 2018 joined the board of Acreage Holdings, a publicly traded cannabis company based in New York. He was also named honorary chairman of the National Cannabis Roundtable, an organization to lobby for pro-marijuana policy, this February. “Republicans have an image that people who use cannabis are a bunch of hippies who hate America,” Rohrabacher told The Hill. “They’re still thinking about the 1960s, and here we are 60 years later. ”Changing those views is a priority for the industry. Rohrabacher was involved in the fight to legalize marijuana in Congress, where he co-founded the House Cannabis Caucus in 2017 with Reps. R-Alaska and D-Ore. and former Rep. D-Colo. . Young and Rep. R-Ohio are now the GOP leaders in the caucus. Rohrabacher’s work in Congress to protect medical cannabis companies from prosecution by the Justice Department culminated in 2014 with the passage of legislation, which prohibits the department from using funds to prosecute activities that are permitted under a state’s medical cannabis laws. “I think I have an understanding of the issues. … Also, I have an understanding of a lot of the players because they have been involved with me over the years trying to legalize marijuana …  and I know how government works,” Rohrabacher said. He added that he “has no problem registering to lobby” once the one-year ban on former members doing so is up. Curbelo also worked on cannabis issues as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. “I just realized how backwards it all was and how behind the times it all was,” he said of laws restricting cannabis businesses. “Then, after Congress, I kind of ran into the Cannabis Trade Federation, which I had already known from before,” he added. Curbelo said it is easier to get younger lawmakers on board with marijuana but that there was still a partisan split. “With a lot of House Republicans, the stigma in connection with cannabis is very strong,” he said. Curbelo said the CTF has business executives from other industries working with them, which is helpful in courting Republicans. “I would always tell them, you all are among the best advocates for this cause because a lot of my Republican colleagues, and maybe Democrats too, wouldn’t expect that this industry is led by people who have a long track record of succeeding in business and people who are obviously extremely ethical,” he said. CTF CEO Neal Levine said younger members were changing the debate on marijuana reforms. “You would be hard pressed to find any member of Congress, regardless of party, under the age of 45 who doesn’t support ending cannabis prohibition,” he said. “And then we have a lot of committee chairs who are in their 70s and 80s,” he added, explaining why legislation has often stalled. Levine said outside of Congress, marijuana legalization has bipartisan support. “The polling shows that very clearly. The people are usually ahead of Congress, and that’s how Congress is set up, to go slow,” he said. Sen. ’s R-Ky. former legislative counsel, Randal Meyer, who left the Senate in September 2017, is now the executive director for a cannabis coalition, Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce. Cannabis advocates point to Boehner as an example of how Republican lawmakers can change. Boehner was opposed to legalizing marijuana in Congress and has acknowledged that his views have dramatically changed since. “He’s been a trendsetter, but he’s also part of the trend itself,” Terry Holt, a spokeman for National Cannabis Roundtable and a partner at HDMK, said. “Marijuana has come a long way in the last decade and Republicans, just like a lot of other not particularly partisan people, have seen the change and have seen the need to update our laws,” Holt added. Republicans who are advocates for the cannabis industry, though, have taken tough criticism from industry critics, who accuse them of cashing in on a booming new business without considering the implications. “A few greedy members always exist in either party, and it’s not surprising to see some members putting profits over people,” said Colton Grace, communications director of Smart Approaches to Marijuana

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