Today is 4/20 (April 20), the unofficial holiday in which the cannabis-using community celebrates itself and, simultaneously, advocates for pot legalization. You may think that opposition to legalizing marijuana comes from aging social conservatives — the “old church lady crowd” — but in fact, you’d be wrong.
Here are the groups fighting the most valiantly against pot legalization.
Prison Guards’ Unions
Who stands to lose the most if cannabis is made legal? The men and women whose income derives from having full prison cells would be at or near the top of that list. And considering that fully half of all inmates in federal prisons are there for drug offenses, as Prison Policy reports, it makes sense that prison guards’ unions would be interested in keeping cannabis illegal.
It’s not just philosophical opposition, either; the unions put their money where their mouth is, in a manner of speaking.
For example, as High Times reports, prison guards’ unions have donated “large sums” to oppose legalization measures, or even measures that stop short of legalization but still aim to keep people out of prison cells, such as diversion programs for first-time, non-violent drug offenders.
Related to the subject of prison guards’ unions, the prison industry itself could stand to suffer. You may not think of prisons as an industry, but private prisons are a thing and have been for a couple of decades. And they are quite eager to have their cells full, joining guards’ unions in fighting pot legalization efforts.
The Police And Their Unions
Here’s another thinker: if there were fewer laws to enforce and fewer people to lock up, would there still be the need for as many police? Would there still be the need for the money that police departments get from the federal government, which is then spent on high-tech weapons, equipment, vehicles, and other “toys”?
Of course, there’s asset forfeiture. As High Times reports, since the Reagan administration, police departments have used asset forfeiture laws to seize cash, vehicles, or anything else of value from people suspected of committing a drug crime. The operative word there is “suspected,” because most of the asset forfeiture laws in this country allow the police to seize the assets even without convicting the alleged perp of a crime.
Fully legalizing cannabis would reduce the amount of police work necessary, thus necessitating less overtime and fewer police, as well as cutting down on federal drug war money and asset forfeiture money. The police sure as heck don’t want that.
The Pharmaceutical Industry
Finally, there’s the old bugaboo of Big Pharma. The number of shady things the industry does and has done in order to boost its profits would make for a whole book, but for this article we’ll focus solely on their opposition to pot legalization.
Again, it’s a thinker: if pot is legalized, what will happen to the industry’s profits from the sales of medicines that treat conditions that cannabis is purported to treat, such as depression, anxiety and pain, to name a few?
As an example, look no further than Florida. Back in 2016, as The Miami New times reported at the time, the Sunshine State was considering legalizing medical marijuana. Coincidentally, right about that time an $800,000 check was sent to a group fighting the efforts. The signature on that check was that of the Carol Jenkins Barnett Family Trust. That family owns the Publix chain of supermarkets which, at the time, was expanding pharmacy operations in its stores. Connect the dots.
Cannabis has been illegal as a matter of federal law for well over 80 years now, although the writing does indeed appear to be on the wall. However, as long as there’s money to be made by keeping pot illegal, states and even the federal government are going to have to contend with lobbyists pushing old canards about pot being a dangerous gateway drug (or whatever other nonsense they push), as well as writing generous checks to politicians’ political campaigns.