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Criminalizing A Generation: Anti-Marijuana Movement is Funded by Private Prisons, Law Enforcement, Big Pharma and Alcoholic Beverage Companies

Photo by Hammerin Man.
Photo by Hammerin Man.
By Noel Brinkerhof
Legalized marijuana may have taken root in Colorado and Washington, but that doesn’t mean it has to spread to other parts of the country, as far as a bevy of special interests are concerned.

Some of the most lucrative and powerful industries in America oppose marijuana decriminalization because it threatens their financial bottom-line or jobs for their workers. Five different interest groups form the backbone of the anti-pot campaign, according to OpenSecrets.org, which tracks political spending.

First, there’s the spirits, wine and beer companies. Legalized marijuana represents a direct threat to this industry’s business model. The more people can legally smoke a bud, the less need they’ll have to buy a Bud. Four years ago, the California Beer and Beverage Distributors contributed $10,000 to help defeat California’s Proposition 19, which sought to legalize recreational marijuana in the state.

Law enforcement groups also want to maintain criminal penalties for pot possession. If the country stops waging its war on drugs, including marijuana, fewer government dollars will flow to police efforts to address this public policy issue. Municipalities will also receive less money from property seized in drug raids.

Others in the criminal justice world that want to keep the status quo of locking up marijuana offenders are private prison operators and prison guard unions. States that legalize marijuana use are likely to experience a decline in prison populations—and that will reduce the need for government to hire private prison companies and correctional officers.

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