What’s the current landscape: There are already at least five national trade groups seeking to influence cannabis policy on Capitol Hill. In addition, there are longstanding marijuana legalization advocacy groups like NORML and Marijuana Policy Project, as well as lobbyists for individual cannabis companies and larger umbrella groups such as the ACLU and Human Rights Watch. As Congress focuses more attention on cannabis policy, some have pointed out that the lack of unity could hold back legalization efforts.
Hawkins says he hopes USCC can alleviate that problem.
“The very fact … that we’ve had so many organizations makes it very difficult to get anything done,” said Hawkins, who also serves as executive director of Marijuana Policy Project. “So the purpose of the U.S. Cannabis Council is to bring together a range of companies … to bring together advocacy organizations, to bring together associations, to bring together individuals, and to really have a unified voice pushing for, ultimately, the end of prohibition and the delivery of social equity.”
Who is involved in USCC: The Cannabis Trade Federation and the Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce, two heavyweight trade groups, are founding members. Canadian cannabis behemoth Canopy Growth Corp. is part of the coalition, as is Acreage Holdings — which used to be part of National Cannabis Roundtable. Also participating is Cresco Labs — Cresco’s CEO Charlie Bachtell serves as chair of National Cannabis Roundtable. Other major companies on board include Columbia Care, Curaleaf and Eaze. Powerhouse cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg and the Veterans Cannabis Project are also among the founding members.
Who’s missing: Notably absent are the three other national industry groups: National Cannabis Roundtable, Minority Cannabis Business Association and National Cannabis Industry Association. A number of advocacy organizations that have at times butted heads with industry groups — such as NORML and Drug Policy Alliance — are also not part of the coalition.
What is USCC’s game plan: Hawkins says the first step is bringing all the stakeholders together and creating a unified policy agenda for the 117th Congress. Then, he said, they need to take that to lawmakers. Whether or not the group will employ its own lobbyists in the future has yet to be decided.
Senate Democrats are already making moves on cannabis legalization — Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) held a meeting Friday with stakeholders, including USCC, the National Cannabis Industry Association, the Minority Cannabis Business Association and other industry and advocacy groups.
“I fully expect … that there may be differences of opinions that we’ll have to work through,” Hawkins said of the fledgling coalition. “At the end of the day, USCC will represent a unified voice of over 30 companies, associations, organizations.