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Sen. Warren Pushes for Laws to Keep Big Tobacco and Amazon from Dominating Legal Cannabis Industry

The Massachusetts senator wants to ensure that those communities most negatively impacted by the failed drug war receive priority over large corporations.

As cannabis legalization initiatives continue adding more states to the roll call of America’s growing marijuana industry, influential and progressive voices in Congress are beginning to call for supplemental legislation to protect the young market from the vulturous talons of big business entities like Amazon and Big Tobacco.


As first reported by Marijuana Moment, during the Federal Cannabis Policy Crash Course event hosted by the Parabola Center for Law and Policy this past weekend, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Ed Markey (D-MA) shared their thoughts on how Congress could bolster the ongoing efforts of activists and local legislators to promote and prioritize small and minority-owned marijuana businesses over the increasingly aggressive tactics of corporations, particularly large tobacco companies.


The Parabola Center for Law and Policy is a think tank dedicated to providing educational resources concerning the detrimental ramifications of consolidated ownership within the cannabis industry. Moreover, the event’s primary focus was discussing policies for establishing a fair and equitable marijuana market sector.


The senators’ comments came in the form of pre-recorded video presentations shown to those participants attending the event. Sen. Warren said in her message, “We know that legalization alone is not enough. We need to ensure that the communities most harmed by the war on drugs are at the front of the line for reaping the benefits of legalization, and we need to legalize in a way that (prevents) Big Tobacco and alcohol corporations or retail giants from dominating the cannabis market.”


"We know that legalization alone is not enough. We need to ensure that the communities most harmed by the war on drugs are at the front of the line for reaping the benefits of legalization, and we need to legalize in a way that (prevents) Big Tobacco and alcohol corporations or retail giants from dominating the cannabis market.”

- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)


Warren’s words were very much in alignment with the overall theme of the event. One of the biggest fears of those advocating for an end to the federal prohibition of cannabis and creating a nationwide legal and regulated marijuana industry is the potential for monopolization of the sector by giants like Amazon, which recently began advocating for cannabis legalization.


Such an abrupt change in corporate philosophy on the part of the retail and distribution titan's executive team is seen with much caution and skepticism by progressive leaders like Warren and Markey. Sen. Warren went on to say, “We’re already seeing some of those companies like Amazon lobbying for cannabis legalization. (I’m) deeply skeptical that Amazon’s lobbying is anything more than a self-interested move to monopolize yet another market, potentially blocking Black and Latino entrepreneurs from an emerging industry.”


For his portion of the program, Sen. Markey focused on the harmful effects of the government’s failed drug war, which decimated communities of color all around the country, disproportionately criminalizing those areas during prohibition.


He said during his presentation, “We know all too well that the war on drugs was a failure.” In addition, he highlighted and celebrated the courageous individuals in those beleaguered communities who “stood up and fought for a different future. It is because of their leadership that we are seeing a significant change to cannabis law all across the United States.”


“But our work is only just beginning,” he said. “A patchwork of local and state laws creates confusion and barriers that big business exploits to make big bucks at the expense of communities already decimated by the war on drugs. Congress must legalize cannabis and prioritize equity.”


"A patchwork of local and state laws creates confusion and barriers that big business exploits to make big bucks at the expense of communities already decimated by the war on drugs. Congress must legalize cannabis and prioritize equity.”

- Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA)


Other notable speakers and attendees at the event included marijuana regulators from Massachusetts, New York City and Washington, D.C., along with representatives of major cannabis advocacy groups like the Drug Policy Alliance, Marijuana Justice, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.


Before the crash course seminar, Parabola released its “anti-monopoly toolkit,” which contains an overview of policy priorities at both the state and federal levels to prevent corporate consolidation of the cannabis industry.


In addition to its work on the crash course event, Parabola has worked tirelessly to advocate for social equity in the burgeoning legal marijuana market. For example, in 2021, the center proposed changes to a House-passed federal marijuana legalization bill that sought to provide a more equitable market for those communities most negatively affected by prohibition and empower them to benefit from the new industry.


Furthermore, late last year, the center spearheaded a coalition that sent a letter to the leadership of the House Oversight 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.


The letter said in part, “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 (of) 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 (of) 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


The potential for Congress to pass a comprehensive legalization measure appears unlikely in the immediate future. However, as more and more states continue to pass legalization initiatives, it is only a matter of time before the economic pressure of the massive financial juggernaut that is legal cannabis breaks down the outdated prohibition policies of the previous century.


Moreover, when that day comes, the efforts of vigilant advocates like Parabola and Sens. Warren and Markey will be crucial to protecting the integrity and small business spirit of an industry too essential to hand over to unscrupulous corporate interests.


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