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Cannabis Proponents Decry Those Advocating Alcohol Model

Advocates for the legalization of marijuana at the federal level ask Congress to reject the alcohol model and the influence of Big Tobacco.


This past Tuesday, the House Oversight subcommittee held a hearing on marijuana legalization on Capitol Hill. Present at that hearing was a cannabis stakeholder organization that received substantial financing from major tobacco and alcohol companies. The seat afforded the Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation (CPEAR) raised serious concerns for many, including an alliance of policy reform and public health advocates, according to a recent news release.


The group sent a letter to the leadership of the subcommittee outlining its apprehension about the potential undue influence of Big Tobacco and alcohol industries in manipulating federal cannabis policy. The reformers also asked lawmakers to reconsider utilizing the alcohol model in fashioning regulations and policies for a future marijuana industry at the national level.


In the letter, the signatories express their appreciation for the “...thoughtful leadership in creating a serious and bipartisan attempt to examine our nation’s federal cannabis laws (but we have) deep concerns about the influence of the tobacco and alcohol industries on this process, including your own hearing on cannabis decriminalization. It is critical that we get cannabis policy right on a national level.”


The group is spearheaded by the Parabola Center for Law and Policy and also includes members of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), Massachusetts Cannabis Advisory Board, Washington D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, Transform Drug Policy Foundation, Ohio State University Drug Enforcement and Policy Center, Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition (CRCC), Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), Alcohol Justice, Truth Initiative, Equitable Opportunities Now, RTI International, the ICEERS Foundation and more.


The group goes on to share, “We risk repeating past public health and regulatory capture mistakes if large conglomerates from the tobacco and alcohol industries are permitted to exert excessive influence over the design a national regulatory framework—and seek to shape policy in the interests of private profit, rather than (the) public good.”


"We risk repeating past public health and regulatory capture mistakes if large conglomerates from the tobacco and alcohol industries are permitted to exert excessive influence over the design a national regulatory framework—and seek to shape policy in the interests of private profit, rather than (the) public good.”

- Open Letter from Concerned Cannabis Reform and Health Advocates


CPEAR’s membership includes tobacco and alcohol titans Altria Client Services and Molson Coors Beverage Company. The thought of fashioning federal marijuana guidelines after those in the alcohol industry has been used by legal cannabis reformers for years as an easy-to-understand and convenient parallel for lawmakers and voters.


However, advocates for a better system, including those organizations who penned the letter, believe that Congress should attempt to construct regulations that promote equity within the burgeoning industry and public health over the current model for alcohol which has a not-so-savory history of predatory and profit-motivated marketing. Moreover, their desire to keep CPEAR from participating in the hearing relates directly to keeping that old style of thinking and exploitation away from the creation of marijuana as a legitimate multi-billion-dollar industry.


They go on to explain, “Indeed, CPEAR is already pushing for legislation that would direct a national regulatory framework for cannabis to be modeled after alcohol regulations, without examining the risks and benefits of such a model, and with policy decisions to be made by trade organizations representing such industries. We urge you to reconsider giving these interests an ongoing platform and consider including the voices of small businesses and public health experts instead.”


"Indeed, CPEAR is already pushing for legislation that would direct a national regulatory framework for cannabis to be modeled after alcohol regulations, without examining the risks and benefits of such a model, and with policy decisions to be made by trade organizations representing such industries. We urge you to reconsider giving these interests an ongoing platform and consider including the voices of small businesses and public health experts instead.”

- Open Letter from Concerned Cannabis Reform and Health Advocates


There is also a strong belief that, by providing large conglomerates from the tobacco and alcohol industries a seat at the table during this critical and formative stage, smaller players who have fought hard to get marijuana legalized at the federal level could be pushed aside once prohibition finally ends.


As Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser (D) shared when he spoke to congressional leaders last year, “If federal legalization isn’t carefully implemented, large companies, particularly existing tobacco-focused companies, will be able to move into new markets immediately, displacing and pushing out smaller players.”


"If federal legalization isn’t carefully implemented, large companies, particularly existing tobacco-focused companies, will be able to move into new markets immediately, displacing and pushing out smaller players.”

- Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser (D)


What makes this diverse group so extraordinary is that it includes both advocates and prohibitionists. Demonstrating that whether in favor of legal adult-use cannabis at the federal level or not, no one wants to see Big Tobacco or Alcohol get their untrustworthy and damaging fingerprints anywhere near the marijuana industry. An industry that views itself as the absolute antithesis of the toxic and unsavory elements comprising the membership of predatory groups like CPEAR. Vigilance and advocacy must be at the core of creating a national model for the marijuana industry in America. Stay informed and get involved.


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