The best advocacy organizations are able to take a belief and turn it into a movement. The 2015 MJINews Power Organizations are the organizations at the forefront of legalization, with some supporting legalization and others not. What they share is that they wield enough influence in public and political spheres to prompt policy reform that will directly affect legal marijuana’s investment landscape. This list is alphabetical.
Americans for Safe Access - Founded by Steph Sherer in 2002, Americans for Safe Access is a national organization whose mission is to ensure safe and legal access to medical marijuana for therapeutic uses and research. With its national office in Washington, D.C., ASA maintains a vital presence on Capitol Hill, advocating on behalf of patients and researchers who support legalized medical marijuana.
Drug Free America Foundation - As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization, the Drug Free America Foundation is not a lobbying entity, yet its persuasion is far reaching. DFAF is committed to developing, promoting and sustaining national and international policies and laws that will reduce illegal drug use and drug addiction.
The organization, funded by Mel and Betty Sembler, the couple behind the infamous Straight Inc. treatment centers, opposes legalized medical and recreational marijuana. The Semblers also formed the Drug Free Florida Committee, which received a donation of $2.5 million from billionaire Sheldon Adelson to defeat legalization in Florida.
DFAF made headlines last year when it attempted to use a visual scare tactic to make people believe that marijuana is capable of “making us a lazy, drugged-out zombie nation.” While the average American likely discerned DFAF’s fallacious use of pathos, others may have bought the argument. DFAF continues to sell the War on Drugs and its efforts are a direct threat to legalization.
Drug Policy Alliance - The Drug Policy Alliance leads the way in promoting drug policies that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights. The DPA is the leading organization in the United States promoting alternatives to the war on marijuana. The DPA took leadership roles in legalizing recreational marijuana in Colorado, Oregon and Washington, D.C. The DPA continues to advocate for the creation of a legal regulatory market for the production and distribution of marijuana, which is crucial in strengthening the industry’s infrastructure.
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition - Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization of criminal justice professionals who bear personal witness to the wasteful futility and harms of current drug policies. LEAP’s international mission is to reduce consequences resulting from fighting the war on drugs and to lessen the incidence of death, disease, crime, and addiction by ending drug prohibition. As the organization is composed of current and former members of the law enforcement and criminal justice communities, it offers essential insight into what drug policy reform needs to look like on the front lines.
Marijuana Policy Project - The Marijuana Policy Project, founded by Rob Kampia in 1995, is the largest 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization in the United States that is solely dedicated to ending marijuana prohibition. The MPP is a proactive organization whose executive director, Rob Kampia, has co-authored several state-level marijuana laws that have been passed in the United States since 2000.
In 2015, MPP will play an active role in medical and recreational legalization efforts in multiple states, as well as marijuana decriminalization efforts. The MPP ultimately envisions “a nation where marijuana is legally regulated similarly to alcohol, marijuana education is honest and realistic, and treatment for problem marijuana users is non-coercive and geared toward reducing harm.”
National Cannabis Industry Association - The National Cannabis Industry Association is the legal cannabis industry’s first trade organization. The NCIA’s mission is to establish a legitimate industry and create a social, economic and legal environment in which cannabis-related businesses can thrive. The NCIA is the leading advocate for businesses engaged in cannabis commerce.
By focusing its lobbying efforts on tax and banking regulations and working with media and national organizations, the NCIA is building coalitions and giving voice to the economic contributions made by cannabis businesses. The NCIA has the ability to mitigate legislative risks associated with the legal cannabis industry so its efforts are vital for establishing the industry’s market potential.
NORML - Since 1970 NORML has been working to change the public’s negative perceptions of marijuana and legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., this non-profit public-interest advocacy group lobbies state and federal legislators in support of reform legislation. The network of volunteer state and local NORML chapters across the country ensure the organization stays relevant in a time when marijuana is slowly being legalized state by state.
As the oldest marijuana legalization organization, NORML is well versed in what it takes to reform marijuana laws. The organization also has mainstream visibility with several celebrities sitting on its advisory board, including figures such as Bill Maher, Woody Harrelson and Willie Nelson. These qualities bolster NORML’s platform to transmit its message to a larger audience.
Smart Approaches to Marijuana - Smart Approaches to Marijuana is a non-profit organization that was founded by Kevin Sabet and Patrick Kennedy to oppose legalization efforts in the United States. While SAM’S efforts failed in Alaska and Oregon, Sabet told The Cannabist that SAM will attempt to defeat state-level legalization efforts in 2016.
SAM has also launched GrassIsNotGreener.com, which is self-described as an initiative of Smart Approaches to Marijuana. This initiative ran a full-page ad in the New York Times on August 2, 2014, in what appears to be an attempt to warn readers of “Big Pot.” However, the visual elements actually initially make the ad appear as if it supports legalization.
While SAM is a slightly mysterious organization, Sabet has formed a fairly high-caliber group that is capable of playing a major role in opposition to legalization efforts. Within that, SAM has the potential to influence the risk associated with investments in the marijuana industry.
Students for Sensible Drug Policy - Founded in 1998, Students for Sensible Drug Policy is an international grassroots network of students dedicated to ending the war on drugs. SSDP does not condone or condemn drug use; it welcomes students to participate in the political process, pushing for sensible drug policies. With a network of approximately 200 chapters in the United States, SSDP has the ability to empower the voice of a generation to rise above the din of propaganda.