So since Politico’s recently posted interview with ‘pot lobbyist’ Aaron Houston has been making the rounds, we thought we’d share what we know about lobbying for marijuana on the hill.
Pot lobbying is certainly not a recent phenomenon, although it has gained strength in recent times, given the departure of the Bush Administration and the relatively friendlier attitude of the current administration toward legalization. Libertarians also tend to support legalization, and those of the libertarian persuasion have come out the woodwork a bit with the ascendence of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), one of two top marijuana advocacy organizations in DC, registered to lobby back in 1999. The Marijuana Policy Project, Houston’s former employer and another leading group, registered in 2005. Based on registrations filed since then, MPP and NORML seem to be the only two registered lobbyists for marijuana laws (Aaron Houston’s current organization, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, has yet to register).
Both NORML and MPP are headquartered on the hill, operate PACs, and lobby on issues ranging from alcohol/drug abuse laws, to taxation and even banking. As every marijuana lobbyists will tell you these days, legalizing marijuana is not just about going easy on the DUI arrests anymore. It’s about the economy, dude (this will be our sole attempt at making a Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure joke).
While one of MPP’s two PACs is an ‘unauthorized PAC’ (meaning it is not officially authorized by a candidate) and the other the Medical Marijuana PAC (total campaign contributions this year = $26,000), NORML’s total federal contributions in the last two quarters go up to $200,000. The PAC has consistently made campaign contributions since it launched its qualified non-party PAC in 2001.