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Pro-Weed Advocates Don't Want Big Business To Run Marijuana

Last October, when President Biden announced that he would take steps to overhaul marijuana laws and pardon those convicted of simple marijuana possession at the federal level, it swung in the direction that cannabis legalization advocates had been wanting for decades. Advocates say that legalizing marijuana completely is the only path forward for an appropriate cannabis marketplace, reports Vox. Now, conflicting interests have emerged. Cannabis advocates say that legalization may not be the right move after all because they are concerned about who will actually benefit from a federally regulated industry. If cannabis is rescheduled under the Controlled Substances Act, regulating marijuana as medicine, advocates worry that it might allow Big Pharma to control the market. And if it’s legalized at a federal level, some also fear that conglomerates like Amazon could quickly dominate a national adult-use marijuana industry. Some activists have even begun attempting to slow or stop legalization legislation, as recently as the midterm elections. Progressive cannabis advocates opposed Arkansas’s legalization measure, which was funded mainly by the medical cannabis industry, claiming that it would have allowed existing medical marijuana businesses to control the adult-use market and rewarded industry backers of the measure by limiting new competitors.

Critics have highlighted the measure's lack of social equity provisions, intended to ensure that people of color and those with marijuana convictions would be given an opportunity to participate in the legal industry. In the end, even though one survey showed that most Arkansas voters favored legalization in September, 56 percent voted against the measure on Election Day. Tyler McFadden, a board member of the cannabis reform group BOWL, believes that rescheduling marijuana under federal law would do nothing to address the harms that decades of prohibition have caused, largely to people and communities of color through disproportionate and discriminatory enforcement of drug laws. “Rescheduling only puts money into the already wealthy people’s pockets — people who have never had to deal with incarceration or aggressive policing,” she says. “The advocacy community is solid: It has to be descheduled.” If the federal government legalizes cannabis, lawmakers should beware of monopolization by national corporations, says Shaleen Title of the cannabis policy think tank Parabola Center. Activist Brian Box Brown argues that lawmakers can craft effective cannabis policies, particularly when they listen to activists rather than lobbyists and special interest groups. “We need to recognize the things that are working and stop catering to corporate wishes."


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