Despite shifting attitudes and changing laws about cannabis, there remain people—and entire industries—that staunchly oppose marijuana legalization.
Nothing has changed in terms of the police’s position on marijuana. Law enforcement continues to block cannabis at every turn and uses cheesy propaganda to maintain the status quo—after all, the War on Drugs has done wonders for police coffers. Besides providing generous budget funding at the state and local levels, prohibition continues to benefit law enforcement through asset-forfeiture programs in which seized property can be auctioned off for additional proceeds. Funds are often used to further the militarization of police forces around the country.
Increasing, well-substantiated evidence of marijuana’s effectiveness for pain management has the pharmaceutical companies running scared. While some are attempting to integrate cannabis into pain-management products—much to the chagrin of whole-plant-medicine advocates—most companies would prefer the status quo. This prevails, despite the fact that the US life-expectancy average has recently dipped—a statistic that has been directly linked to opioid-overdose deaths skyrocketing into a domestic crisis. Big Pharma continues lobbying against cannabis with generous funding for anti-legalization campaigns.
The privatization of prisons has created yet another foe of marijuana legalization. Private-prison companies have a vested interest in fending off legalization for profit motives. It’s actually quite simple: More marijuana convictions lead to fuller prisons and more profit. These companies feel substantially threatened with the rollout of adult-use cannabis laws. Statistics indicate that the spread of legalization to varying degrees among states has resulted in an estimated $2 billion loss in value. Not good for business, eh?
Prison-guard unions are well funded and have succeeded historically in influencing legislative policy. In 1994, they influenced the enactment of the “three strikes” ballot measure in California. In 2008, they campaigned heavily and spent large sums to defeat a measure to create prison-diversion programs for nonviolent drug offenders. In 2014, partnering with the anti-pot group Drug Free Florida, the unions helped defeat a medical-marijuana measure. And in 2015, they were successful in defeating a measure for asset-forfeiture reform.
Production of hemp would threaten current paper production driven by the forestry industry. In fact, the forestry industry has a long and sordid history of opposing cannabis’s cousin. The drive to repeal US hemp production began in the ’30s with the influence of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Hearst owned thousands of acres of forests and wanted them used to create paper for his newspapers, a strategy of vertical integration. Another industry, forestry trucking, also has a vested interest in continued prohibition.