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Drug money: Lawmakers suddenly courting marijuana lobbyists

For years, lobbyist groups for legalizing marijuana have been given the Congressional cold shoulder, but the last election had two states, Washington and Colorado, legalize small amounts of marijuana for recreational use.

Suddenly, the idea of legalizing marijuana isn’t such a taboo subject. Lobbying groups such as the National Organization for the Reform of marijuana Laws (NORML) are getting calls from lawmakers on the Hill who wouldn’t give them the time of day in the past.

As interest in legalizing pot for personal use becomes prevalent, more competition for fundraising money will develop.

“These were folks who wouldn't take a call five years ago and now they are calling us and telling us to get up there with our PAC money and our expertise,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML in The Hill report. “For those of us who have been at this for the past 20 years, it has been nice to see the warm turn.”

Oregon is another state that has been pushing for a pot initiative, but measure 80 failed in 2012. It will likely skip the 2014 election in hopes of a better chance to get passed in 2016, with the tide of increased acceptance and more voter turnout of a presidential election.

According to a statement from The Hill, the government relations group, Marijuana Police Project (MPP) plans to increase fundraising for drug legislation through more political action committee activities. The group has set a goal of reaching $150,000 by the 2014 election cycle.

“The ground has shifted and we now see members of Congress wanting to regulate cannabis like alcohol. Our activity on the federal level is no longer just about medical marijuana,” said MPP Director Steve Fox.

Many lawmakers want to see a complete overhaul of the federal drug policy in general, not just marijuana. They say it should include improvements to control over-incarceration, racial disparity and financial conservation.

While Republicans, President Barack Obama and the Democrats are still waged in battle on Capitol Hill over spending cuts and gun control, there are a few lawmakers who are also in the planning stages of legislation to regulate marijuana and other related policies. They include Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

In addition, some Grand Old Party lawmakers are giving a second look excluding hemp from the Controlled Substance Act.

The question of funding will play a key role in states where marijuana does get decriminalized and legal pot gets moved into the business arena.

The growing, processing and distribution of pot in Washington and Colorado will be very tightly regulated, but there are gray areas on how a cash-only business can get access to traditional bank funding.

The subject of pot-tourism has been raised, which has been very lucrative for Amsterdam. Experts say there will most likely be an abundance of venture capital investments available to pot startups, while the banks figure out whether or not they want to get on the grass gravy train.

Meanwhile, previously ignored pot-lobbyists are suddenly being treated like the most popular kid in school and their phones are ringing off the hook.

Related reports:

Washington and Colorado legalize marijuana

Pot tourism: Bed, breakfast and weed?

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Jean Williams, environmental and political journalist; PrairieDogPress writer; Artistic Director, Keystone Prairie Dogs.***PrairieDogPress is the media channel for keystone-prairie-dogs.com, which is a fundraising website to support environmental groups for extraordinary efforts to protect Great Plains habitat and prairie dogs in the wild. PDP uses humorous images, social commentary and serious-minded political reports to challenge government on numerous levels, including accountability to the people, the protection of threatened species, the environment and Earth’s natural resources.