Cannabis and lobbying efforts
The issue of cannabis legalization has been somewhat polarizing and is bringing to the forefront the interests of groups involved on both sides of the issue. There are several groups lobbying to keep marijuana illegal; some of the key groups are private prisons, alcohol corporations, and pharmaceutical companies. All of these groups are lobbying to protect their positions in the market as the legalization of marijuana poses a significant threat to their revenue streams. The aforementioned groups are challenged by social and religious organizations who are funded by wealthy individuals and venture capital who are seeking to legalize the drug. This issue has managed to draw interest on the grounds of social injustice across the spectrum to financial preservation.
Groups lobbying to prevent cannabis legalization
While it is presumed that mass production of marijuana is a potentially huge business[by whom?], there are groups and businesses that are strongly opposed to legalizing the recreational use of cannabis. Private prisons, alcohol corporations and pharmaceutical companies all have significant financial interest in the drug’s legality being prevented. Private prisons rely on the high number of arrests associated with marijuana enforcement law to maintain their populations at peak profit levels, while alcohol and pharmaceutical companies see it as a competing good that reduces their market shares.
Private prisons are publicly traded corporations operating on a business model of housing inmates when state prisons reach their capacities. Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group, Inc. retain the majority of market share with market caps of $3.62B and $2.3B, respectively.  In 2013, 750,000 people were arrested for charges involving cannabis with 40,000 inmates currently in prison for marijuana conviction. In 2012, the CCA made an agreement with 48 states to buy public prisons in which the states committed to keep the prisons at 90% occupancy for the next 20 years. This commitment was tested in 2010 when three inmates escaped from a private prison in Arizona, which broke their capacity quota and they ended up suing the state and walked away with a $3 million settlement. With this obligation some states have increased the incarceration rates for charges related to marijuana from a year for a first offense to life for selling it.[improper synthesis?]
The recent legalization and decriminalization of cannabis in Colorado and Washington has private prisons worried. If decriminalization legislation in regards to cannabis were passed nationwide, the private prisons may not be able to keep their quotas which could tank their stock price and their business model.[according to whom?] This is one of the major reasons that has led to private prison groups to spend massive amounts of money on campaign contributions and lobbying. According to the Justice Police Institute, these groups donated $6 million to state candidates and spent close to a million dollars on federal lobbying. Between the millions of dollars of losses in settlements to these private corporations and the average cost of $23,876 per inmate, and the increase to fund policing to ensure 90% capacity, it may leave many to question whether the savings many states utilized private prisons for is justified.[weasel words]
A recent study in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management by Mark Anderson and Daniel Reese has indicated that increased marijuana use in California is a substitute for alcohol. This research showed that participants frequently choose marijuana over other substances. They reported that over 41 percent of the people said that they prefer to use marijuana instead of alcohol. Some of the main reasons for this substitute were ‘less withdrawal’, ‘fewer side-effects’ and ‘better symptom management’. Alcohol companies are afraid of the competition that marijuana is bringing to the table and they are willing to spend money to keep it illegal.[according to whom?] Campaign finance report from California reveals that California Beer and Beverage Distributors, which has over 100 beer distributors statewide, is one of the primary backers of the Public Safety First group that is lobbying against marijuana by saying no to the Proposition 19 campaign. California Secretary of State’s office said that on September 7, 2010 the beer lobby donated $10,000 to Public Safety First. That was just a few days before Public Safety First sent an online claim against the passage of Prop. 19, which in turn would have legalized the use and limited farming of cannabis and would have allowed local government to regulate it’s production and distribution. 2008 they donated $100,000 to lobby against Proposition 5, the Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act, which would have reduced criminal marijuana possession penalties from a crime to a non-criminal violation.
Pharmaceutical companies spent $900 million on lobbying between 1998 and 2005, more than any other industry.[relevant? ] Pharmaceutical companies are one of the main industries lobbying to keep marijuana illegal and have paid millions of dollars to law making officials for anti-marijuana laws. There was a study done by Reiman which showed that 66 percent of patients used cannabis as a substitute for prescription drugs; while 68 percent used cannabis as a substitute for prescription drugs to treat chronic illness. The side effects were reported to be lower by 85 percent of the patients than from prescribed medication. The pharmaceutical market was estimated to be worth $837 billion in 2009, this number is expected to reach one trillion dollars in the near future. Pharmaceutical companies also have a problem with the legalization of marijuana because they cannot paten the marijuana plant.  A retired police officer Howard Wooldridge, told the Republic Report that after police unions, pharmaceutical companies are in second place in lobbying to keep marijuana illegal. He stated that the reason was because marijuana can replace a lot of medication offered by pharmaceutical companies, from Advil to Vicodin and other expensive pills.
Groups lobbying to legalize cannabis
Efforts to legalize cannabis has attracted a broad range of interest groups. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) have been strong supporters of marijuana legalization and they along with other interest groups have received financial support from some notable capitalists. Law reform on the subject has also attracted support from religious organizations. The ACLU and the NAACP are fighting for marijuana law reform as they claim it is being administered unjustly. Some religious groups have taken this position as well and also support the drug’s medical merit. This cause has further been supported by capitalists like George Soros and the late Peter Lewis who have backed such reform with significant donations over the past few decades.
The ACLU and NAACP
The ACLU takes a firm position that decriminalizing cannabis will keep tens of thousands of people from entering into the criminal justice system  as police efforts result in both unnecessary arrests and the enforcement of marijuana laws wastes billions of tax payers’ dollars.  They affirm that removing criminal penalties for marijuana offenses will therefore reduce the U.S. prison population and more effectively protect the public and promote public health.  One of the reasons that the ACLU has been such a strong supporter of drug prohibition is that according to their research drug related arrests have largely driven America’s incarceration rate to unacceptable levels. Drug offenders comprise over 500,000 of the more than 2 million people in America’s prisons and jails, and drug offenses combined with failed drug tests account for a significant number of those returning to prison for parole and probation violations.  Between 2001 and 2010, there were over 7 million pot arrests in the U.S. and of these arrests 88% were for simply having marijuana.  These marijuana related arrests now account for over half of all drug related arrests in the United States.  These arrests tend to be racially imbalanced as a black person is 3.73 times more likely to be arrested than a white person for marijuana related charges,  despite research that suggests fairly equal usage rates between the two races.  The ACLU is further troubled by the amount of money that is spent annually to enforce marijuana laws as they claim that over 3 billion dollars are spent every year by states to enforce marijuana regulation,  while the drug’s availability has not declined.  The ACLU claims that over 50% of Americans support marijuana legalization  and they are advocating for the legalization of Cannabis through the Criminal Law Reform Project.  They believe that the resources that are spent on enforcing marijuana law could be better invested in our communities through education and job training.  The NAACP has taken a similar stance and has cited the same data used by the ACLU.  The NAACP has been strong supporters of the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act – H.R. 1523 and has reached out to members of congress to get this act passed.  This act is designed to decrease penalties for low-level marijuana possession and supports prohibiting federal enforcement of marijuana laws in states which have lesser penalties. 
In order to effectively campaign to legalize recreational cannabis use millions of dollars have been spent to lobby for this reform. George Soros is a billionaire hedge fund manager that has spent $3 million since the 1990s to legalize marijuana.  He supports the ACLU and NAACP, which claim that marijuana-related convictions reflect racial inequalities in the way US drug policies are enforced.  In 2010 Soros wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal citing the fact that African Americans are no more likely than other Americans to use marijuana but are far more likely to be arrested for possession.  Soros also funds marijuana reform organizations like the Open Society Foundation and New Approach Washington.  Soros efforts to reform marijuana laws were predated by fellow billionaire, the late Peter Lewis. Lewis was the former chairman of Progressive Insurance and passed away November 23, 2013.  Lewis is considered to be the most high profile billionaire backer of drug reform and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) estimated that Lewis had spent well over $40 million funding the cause since the 1980s.  During the November 2012 election, he spent almost $3 million helping secure the passage of marijuana legalization bills in both Washington state and Massachusetts.  The list of capitalists who have joined Soros and Lewis in the cause of Marijuana reform include John Sperling, who is the founder of the University of Phoenix and George Zimmer who is the founder and former CEO of Men’s Wearhouse. Sperling donated $70,000 to support marijuana law reform in Oregon, and Zimmer contributed $20,000 to advocate for marijuana decriminalization in California.  These capitalists have helped pave the way for a new type of business with special interests in the Cannabis industry. The ArcView Group was founded in 2010 by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and marijuana advocates Troy Dayton and Steve DeAngelo.  Their company teams up angel investors with companies that produce cannabis products and it's been one of the major sources of startup revenue for cannabis-related companies.  This company has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to educational reform groups like the Students for Sensible Drug Policy and a pro-legalization PAC run by the Marijuana Policy Project. 
Religious organizations have significantly influenced the policies enacted in this nation. Research shows that religious lobbying has greatly increased in the world at present. Back in the 1970s, almost forty religious organizations were identified with lobbying while today almost 200 religious organizations are identified with lobbying. Many religious groups support marijuana legalization in defense that it is used for medicinal purposes. There are so many competing interests in reference to the legalization of marijuana among religious leaders. For instance, Revered Samuel Rodriguez of National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conferences stated that “laws that prohibit marijuana affect the minorities significantly and hence should be reconsidered.” Religious groups uphold that marijuana does not harm as much as alcohol does and thus legalizing it for medicinal usage would not be harmful to the economy. In a similar way, one of the famous evangelical leaders, Mark DeMoss, also raised a question about the revision of the existing policies towards marijuana. He explains that today about 50% of all prisoners are detained for nonviolent crimes, most of which are related to drugs, particularly, marijuana. As a result, both individuals and society suffer because people face imprisonment even if they do not harm others while taxpayers have to pay for incarceration. Thus, DeMoss concludes that the government should legalize marijuana because in such a way it will be able to resolve the problem. While DeMoss does not promote free use of marijuana, he notices that the country clearly has more serious problems. For example, the USA already experiences serious losses due to high rates of alcohol abuse since alcohol potentially can be more dangerous than marijuana. However, it should be emphasized that such changes in views by religious organizations on marijuana are rather consistent with changes in public opinion. Only a few decades ago most Americans opposed legalization of marijuana, but as of 2013, at least 52% of citizens are ready to accept legalization while only 45% oppose it. Furthermore, strong support of legalization among younger generations (65% among those adults who were born after 1980) suggests that public support of legalization will keep increasing. Colorado and Washington have already legalized marijuana, and it is likely that other states will eventually start following their example. In a similar way, religious Americans and their organizations start becoming more liberal when expressing their views on marijuana. Nevertheless, the majority of religious organizations are still not ready to support legalization openly because effects of consumption of marijuana are similar to that of alcohol and include weakened control over one's behavior what is not approved by the church.
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