The Top Five Special Interest Groups Lobbying To Keep Marijuana Illegal

Last year, over 850,000 people in America were arrested for marijuana-related crimes. Despite public opinion, the medical community, and human rights experts all moving in favor of relaxing marijuana prohibition laws, little has changed in terms of policy.

There have been many great books and articles detailing the history of the drug war. Part of America’s fixation with keeping the leafy green plant illegal is rooted in cultural and political clashes from the past.

However, we at Republic Report think it’s worth showing that there are entrenched interest groups that are spending large sums of money to keep our broken drug laws on the books:

1.) Police Unions: Police departments across the country have become dependent on federal drug war grants to finance their budget. In March, we published a story revealing that a police union lobbyist in California coordinated the effort to defeat Prop 19, a ballot measure in 2010 to legalize marijuana, while helping his police department clients collect tens of millions in federal marijuana-eradication grants. And it’s not just in California. Federal lobbying disclosures show that other police union lobbyists have pushed for stiffer penalties for marijuana-related crimes nationwide.

2.) Private Prisons Corporations: Private prison corporations make millions by incarcerating people who have been imprisoned for drug crimes, including marijuana. As Republic Report’s Matt Stoller noted last year, Corrections Corporation of America, one of the largest for-profit prison companies, revealed in a regulatory filing that continuing the drug war is part in parcel to their business strategy. Prison companies have spent millions bankrolling pro-drug war politicians and have used secretive front groups, like the American Legislative Exchange Council, to pass harsh sentencing requirements for drug crimes.

3.) Alcohol and Beer Companies: Fearing competition for the dollars Americans spend on leisure, alcohol and tobacco interests have lobbied to keep marijuana out of reach. For instance, the California Beer & Beverage Distributors contributed campaign contributions to a committee set up to prevent marijuana from being legalized and taxed.

4.) Pharmaceutical Corporations: Like the sin industries listed above, pharmaceutical interests would like to keep marijuana illegal so American don’t have the option of cheap medical alternatives to their products. Howard Wooldridge, a retired police officer who now lobbies the government to relax marijuana prohibition laws, told Republic Report that next to police unions, the “second biggest opponent on Capitol Hill is big PhRMA” because marijuana can replace “everything from Advil to Vicodin and other expensive pills.”

5.) Prison Guard Unions: Prison guard unions have a vested interest in keeping people behind bars just like for-profit prison companies. In 2008, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association spent a whopping $1 million to defeat a measure that would have “reduced sentences and parole times for nonviolent drug offenders while emphasizing drug treatment over prison.”

– Article orginally from Republic Report.



  1. Anonymous on

    Those groups are just spikes in the ground. The petro-chemical industry designed the tent nearly a hundred years ago.

  2. gstlab3 on

    “They” The bankers, corporations, politicians and the elite in the secrete world of world governance have to be outed for who and what they are.,

    They are the ones who profit on the backs of the poor and sick dying and addicted.,

    By perpetuating this fake war on drugs like the fake war on poverty and ignorance these war mongering profiteers must be outed., found out and cast out of our world which demands peace, freedom,liberty of people and knowledge.

    The constant flow of cash weapons and arms and the flow of illicit drugs are all kept in lockstep by a very powerfull central group or groups of men who enslave us to this constant state of spin, fear, hate and war.

  3. foam on

    was opposed…The prohibition industry is iron gripped by corporatist just as healthcare, defence, education, energy all are…

  4. cormacobear on

    It would be very enlightening if it were possible to poll these groups memberships, or to get the results from polls already done on where individuals stand on legalization. It is not always the dominant views of the membership that are expressed by union leadership or organization management. Such a discrepancy can often be utilized to change the policy at the top. In the more likely case that leadership is expressing the common held view knowing exactly which groups were most committed or divided could help better focus educational, advertising , and lobbying efforts.