With mounting evidence supporting its health and wellness benefits and resounding evidence of the drug war's failure, it’s a wonder that anyone still opposes cannabis legalization. Despite the tremendous momentum in favor of legalization last year, it turns out prohibition still has deep support with even deeper pockets.
There are five major groups lobbying to keep cannabis illegal. Of those, three are within the law enforcement industry, and the other two have competing mind-altering products.
Police and Prisons (Unsurprisingly) Support Prohibition
Police unions, private prisons, and prison guard unions have all lobbied to maintain prohibition. In 2010, a police union lobbyist in California helped to defeat Prop 19, the ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana. In 2008, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association spent $1 million fighting against a measure that would have “reduced sentences and parole times for nonviolent drug offenders while emphasizing drug treatment over prison.” The Corrections Corporation of America, one of America’s largest for-profit prison companies, revealed that continuing the drug war is a central pillar of their business strategy.
Our Vices Don't Want Competition
The other two industries fighting legalization should come as no surprise: both pharmaceutical companies and alcohol brands are spending money keep prohibition around, too. As we reported last year, certain anti-cannabis academics are funded by big pharma. Alcohol companies are also lobbying against legalization. In one example, the California Beer & Beverage Distributors made campaign contributions to a committee dedicated to preventing marijuana legalization and taxation.
To summarize, police unions, prison guard unions, for-profit prisons, and drug and alcohol companies spend huge sums of money each year to keep cannabis illegal, and why? Because it ensures job security and profits. We’re speechless, though sadly not surprised.