We’ve seen some big, public pushes for marijuana policy reform from certain legislators and pro-marijuana organizations in recent years. But we hear less from the other side — the groups fighting to keep marijuana illegal. That’s probably because these anti-marijuana lobby groups are interested in preserving the War on Drugs for their own financial interests.
Here are the top 5 anti-marijuana lobby groups:
1. Pharmaceutical corporations
Pharmaceutical companies stand to lose a lot of market share if marijuana is legalized because cannabis would offer a cheap, safe alternative to their products, according to Republic Report.
Howard Wooldridge, a retired police officer who now lobbies the government to relax marijuana prohibition laws, told Republic Report that next to police unions, the “second biggest opponent on Capitol Hill is big PhRMA” because marijuana can replace “everything from Advil to Vicodin and other expensive pills.”
Drug manufacturers gave nearly $21.8 million to various federal candidates and committees as well as the parties in the 2012 elections. And in 2013 alone PhRMA spent nearly $18 million on lobbying, according to OpenSecrets.
2. Police unions
Police unions donate heavily to anti-legalization efforts, probably because ending the War on Drugs would translate to decreased police funding.
Ending marijuana prohibition would not only disrupt federal awards to police departments ($2.4 billion in 2014), it would also cut into marijuana-related asset forfeitures, as reported by The Nation’s Lee Fang.
But this is how Jim Pasco, the executive director of The National Fraternal Order of Police, defends the pushback against marijuana legalization efforts, as reported byPolitico:
“The sentiment within the law enforcement community, which has to deal with the effects of addictive drugs, is that we’re not going to sit on our hands and watch these people misrepresent.”
“The country is going to hell in a handbasket. … People are worried about their Social Security and health care, and these people are worried about getting high.”
3. Private prison corporations
Private prisons are another industry that would obviously be disrupted by legalizing marijuana.
Fewer people being sentenced for marijuana crimes translates directly into fewer bodies private prison corporations can reap incarceration profits from.
OpenSecrets reports that the two largest private prison operators, Corrections Corporation of America and GEO, have been lobbying heavily against policies that would reduce incarceration. Corrections Corporation of America has spent at least $970,000 a year on lobbying since 2008, and GEO has spent anywhere from $250,000 to $660,000 a year on lobbying.
According to The Intercept, private prison companies aren’t just funding conservative politicians’ campaigns, they’re also contributing to campaigns for perceived progressive politicians, like 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
4. Prison guard unions
States that legalize marijuana are more likely to see declines in prison populations, which will reduce the need for the government to utilize private prison companies and correctional officers, according to OpenSecrets.
For example, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association gave $1 million to the campaign that successfully defeated Proposition 5 in 2008, which would have reduced parole sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders as well as emphasizing drug treatment and rehabilitation programs as an alternative to incarceration.
Another politically active labor union representing many prison guards and donating to the campaign against drug reform is the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
More from OpenSecrets:
In the 2012 campaign cycle AFSCME gave more than $13 million to candidates, parties and committees at the federal level. In 2013, AFSCME spent almost $2.7 million on lobbying efforts.
5. Alcohol and beer companies
Alcohol interests are lobbying to keep marijuana illegal because they just don’t want the competition for Americans’ leisure spending, according to Republic Report.
For example, the California Beer & Beverage Distributors contributed $10,000 in campaign contributions to a committee working to prevent Proposition 19, which would have legalized and taxed marijuana, from passing back in 2010, as reported by LA Weekly. Needless to say, Proposition 19 failed to pass.