Policy Guides

The Essential Guide to Cannabis: Who to Know

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Who to know on K St. 

The pro-cannabis lobbying sector in Washington, DC is primarily divided into two camps: groups that won’t support any cannabis legislation that doesn’t include criminal justice reform and the groups that see piecemeal legislation like SAFE Banking or STATES as a stepping stone toward criminal justice reform. 

Cannabis is lobbying is also a pretty new field. Some consider lobbyists who were working in this space before 2016 as “old guard.” Since 2016, many new trade organizations have cropped up on Capitol Hill to join the old guard of NORML, Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). While organizations like NORML and DPA are more focused on the criminal justice reform aspect of cannabis policy, some of the trade organizations - like National Cannabis Industry Association(NCIA) and Cannabis Trade Federation (CTF) - have a more step-by-step approach to drug policy reform and are willing to push for cannabis legislation that doesn’t include criminal reform language like descheduling and/or expungements. 

Some of the major advocacy groups on Capitol Hill still employ their own lobbyists. NORML, DPA, MPP and the ASA all have a lobbyist in-house. NCIA, National Cannabis Roundtable (NCR), California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA), CTF and Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA), meanwhile, employ lobbyists from established lobbying firms - who either focus full-time on the cannabis industry or include it as one aspect of their portfolio. 

Key Players on K Street
  • Justin Strekal

    • Lobbies for: NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws)

    • Has been working in cannabis policy for 2.5 years

    • NORML has a hand in everything, but its major focus with the federal government is on descheduling and criminal justice reform

  • Don Murphy

    • Lobbies for: Marijuana Policy Project. Don was previously a Republican state representative in Maryland, and he has a specialty in lobbying Republican members of congress on cannabis issues.

    •  Has been working in cannabis policy for over a decade 

  • Saphira Galoob, The Liaison Group –

    • Lobbies for multiple industry groups, including National Cannabis Roundtable (which includes major cannabis corporations such as Acerage Holdings,  Pura Vida, Cresco and Flow Canna), California Cannabis Industry Association, Oregon Cannabis Association

    • Has been working in cannabis policy since 2016

  • Jochum, Shore & Trossevin (JST)

    • Lobbies for Cannabis Trade Federation, one of the deepest-pocketed trade orgs in the cannabis industry

  • Navigators Global

    • Lobbies for Cannabis Trade Federation, one of the deepest-pocketed trade orgs in the cannabis industry, and for Curaleaf – one of the largest cannabis companies

  • Federal Advocates

    • Lobbies for NCIA, which is the main representative of the nation-wide cannabis industry

  • Project SAM

    • The primary lobbying group against most – though not all – cannabis legislation. They are against descheduling and legalization but are for decriminalization and for some criminal justice reform.

    • Kevin Sabet is the president of SAM, and he and other staff members are active on Capitol Hill, often testifying for house and senate panels.      

  • Other lobbyists to keep an eye out for on Capitol Hill:

    • David Quam of Dentons

    • Tate McDonald of Holland & Knight

    • Ethan Pittleman of Capitol Counsel 

Download the full chapter here. 

Read more from POLITICO Pro Cannabis here

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