Cannabis companies invest in their future with political donations
Cannabis companies have been giving politically for years, and in 2020 those donations have continued to grow. In fact, some companies are aggressively investing to shape the future of the cannabis industry, either by donating directly to campaigns and politicians, or through political action committees (PACs) that support cannabis-friendly candidates and laws.
So far, in 2020, the Center for Responsive Politics reports that the leading cannabis companies, cannabis companies and cannabis trade associations are making donations to federal candidates, political parties and external groups (in order of donation amounts until 2020):
- Canty Ventures
- National Association of the Cannabis Industry (NCIA)
- Have a heart
- Beyond Broadway LLC
- Sea Hunter Therapeutics
- Cannabis Trade Federation
- Dan Kopp & Co.
- Land stocks
- Weed cards
Compare this list to the list of major cannabis company donors in 2019, which included Curaleaf, Parallel Brands (formerly Surterra Wellness), Tweed Inc. (part of Canopy Growth Corporation), Canndescent, and Trulieve. Even cannabis aid companies like Dama Financial, WeedMaps and Acreage Holdings are donating large sums of money in 2019, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Government donations in 2020
There are a number of legalization (adult and / or medical) and decriminalization measures in place for government ballots in 2020, and cannabis companies, aid companies, and professional associations have actively donated directly to related campaigns and initiatives at the state level.
In Arizona, Harvest is the largest legalization support donor (Prop. 207), followed by Curaleaf, MedMen, Cresco Labs, Copperstate Farms, the Arizona Dispensaries Association, the Herbal Wellness Center, and Oasis Dispensaries.
Mississippi’s November Medical Marijuana Initiative (Initiative 65) was donated by the CEO of Heritage Properties (George Walker III), Ghost Management Group (which owns Weedmaps), and the owner of ABKO Labs (Robert Lloyde II).
The Ghost Management Group and its subsidiary Weedmaps also donated to support Montana and New Jersey legalization initiatives. Additionally, New Jersey’s Legalization Question 1 on the November ballot paper received donations directly from The Scotts Company (maker of Scotts Miracle Gro), Pashman Stein Walder Hayden (a New Jersey cannabis law firm), and the Compassionate Care Research Institute (a New Jersey ) Pharmacy).
Note that these donations do not include the donations that cannabis companies and ancillary businesses donate to PACs or that they invest in lobbying. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that the largest investments in lobbying cannabis companies, affiliates and trade associations in 2020 came from the Cannabis Trade Federation, the National Cannabis Roundtable, Canopy Growth Corp., Curaleaf, the Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce and Parallel Brands, Cronos Group, Charlottes Web, NCIA, Acreage Holdings, Dama Financial, Trulieve, the California Cannabis Association, and the Oregon Cannabis Association.
Political donations from cannabis interests are not new
One of the biggest political fundraising stories came in California when cannabis companies aggressively donated to former Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom’s campaign to become governor of the state in the 2018 election. He has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from cannabis growers, processors, and retailers, according to the Los Angeles Times.
By May 2018, Newsom had raised nearly $ 500,000 from cannabis companies, but he wasn’t the only California politician receiving money from cannabis interests. At the time, the state treasurer, John Chiang, and the attorney general, Xavier Becerra, were also securing donations from the cannabis industry.
And of course, those donation numbers don’t even include the many donations from PACs that companies and individuals working in the cannabis industry donate to. Much of this funding goes straight to a specific candidate’s fundraiser. For example, the Coastal Pacific Political Action Committee held a fundraiser in June 2017, and six days later the PAC donated $ 50,000 to Newsom’s campaign.
Another notable political donation was made in Florida over several years. The Miami Herald reported that Surterra donated $ 1.1 million to Florida political candidates and committees between the summer of 2016 and March 2018. Trulieve donated $ 564,000 and Curaleaf donated $ 469,000 over the same period.
In Illinois, the doors for cannabis companies opened to make political donations in March 2017 when a federal judge ruled a provision in Illinois that banned marijuana companies from making campaign contributions in the state.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the provision prevented contributions to political committees established to promote candidates for public office. Since that decision, cannabis companies like PharmaCann and Cresco Labs have donated significant amounts to the state’s political candidates and committees.
Business and individual donations to marijuana-friendly political candidates have also become standard in Nevada and Colorado. During the 2016 election, dozens of marijuana growers, processors, and pharmacies donated $ 75,000 to Nevada lawmakers, according to the Nevada Independent.
Looking back at history, Florida Senator Rob Bradley received his first donation from a cannabis company in 2015 when Costa Farms donated $ 10,000 to its political committee.
Similarly, cannabis companies have been actively contributing to Colorado political campaigns for years, and many of these companies have run political fundraisers to support their preferred candidates. PBS reported back in 2014 that Colorado’s congressional delegation received $ 20,000 from marijuana companies in the first nine months of 2014. Also in 2014, a fundraiser in support of political candidates run by Denver’s Tripp Keber, Colorado’s Dixie Elixirs & Edibles, generated $ 40,000 in donations.
What about donations for political campaigns by cannabis companies?
As the cannabis industry continues to grow and more states legalize medicinal and / or recreational cannabis, the laws will evolve. Cannabis companies and ancillary companies should definitely consider which politicians are enacting these laws.
With this in mind, political donations from the cannabis industry can be expected to grow larger and more frequent in the years to come. Let’s put cannabis company donations to political campaigns into perspective. In the first half of 2019, the cannabis industry donated more than $ 200,000 to members of Congress, up from $ 248,504 for all of 2018. Compare that to the $ 42 million drug companies donated to political campaigns in the US in 2018.
Given these numbers, it is guaranteed that political donations from cannabis and cannabis companies will continue to grow. Smart companies pay attention and seek to influence the regulations that affect or may affect the future of their businesses.
Originally published 8/24/17. Updated on 10/23/20.