Consider this: the Supreme Court tipped the national scales on same-sex marriage after it had been legalized in thirty-seven states. Marijuana has some status of legality in over half the country (according to Pew Research), with new laws budding every day. Will the Supreme Court follow a similar route of judicial legalization with marijuana?
Possibly. But it’s important to realize a crucial difference between marijuana legalization and same-sex marriage. Whereas there were very powerful lobbies fighting for same-sex marriage, there are actually powerful lobbies working against the legalization of marijuana. Just who are these lobbies, and what do they have to gain?
Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who doubled down on her opposition to legalization in a recent interview with the New York Times, putting her at odds with 65% of self-identified Democrats.
Why would one of the Democratic party’s top figures take such an unusual stance?
One possible reason: Wasserman Schultz’s re-election campaign has received a big financial boost from the alcohol industry, which stands to suffer financially if legalized pot cuts into its market share. Our analysis of contribution data found that Wasserman Schultz and her leadership PAC have received $330,568 from the Beer, Wine, & Liquor industry since her first congressional election cycle in 2006.
Wasserman Schultz certainly isn’t the only politician to benefit from Big Booze’s largesse. The Beer, Wine, & Liquor industry contributed more than $17 million to federal candidates in the last election and has funded opponents of ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana. The alcohol business might have reason to worry about growing competition from legal reefer: in Colorado, tax revenues from pot have outpaced taxes raised from alcohol for the first time ever, with few signs of sales slowing down.
Fantastic. And Big Alcohol isn’t alone in their opposition to marijuana legalization. Big Pharma is also opposed, since marijuana could easily replace some of their most addictive and best-selling drugs, like Oxycontin and Zohydrol. Then there’s the Law Enforcement lobby. This might just be the most disgusting one in the whole group:
Police unions, often a major force in state and local politics, have funneled money to anti-legalization campaigns and lobbyists — in some cases to protect police access to federal funds made available to departments that tackle marijuana related offenses. Prison guard unions have spent big to defeat reform efforts that emphasize drug treatment programs instead of harsh prison sentences. And finally, there’s private prison companies, which have openly admitted that any changes to laws affecting drugs and controlled substances could reduce demand for prison beds and hurt their bottom line.
Gross. The interesting thing about marijuana legalization is that, unlike same-sex marriage, the majority of Americans actually want it to happen. So, it just goes to show you who actually runs this country, notwithstanding all the “we the people” rhetoric.