Chart of the Week: Over $9M Spent in 2014 on Cannabis Advocacy

By Becky Olson and John Schroyer

Four of the top marijuana-related lobbying organizations spent over $9 million on state and federal cannabis advocacy in 2014, according to representatives from the groups.

Of that amount, the organizations – Americans for Safe Access, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Marijuana Policy Project and the National Cannabis Industry Association – spent $636,000 on direct federal lobbying, according to disclosure reports filed with the Senate Office of Public Records (SOPR).

This means federal lobbying expenditures for marijuana-related causes from these groups represented .03% of the industry’s total retail sales last year, which came in at around $2 billion-$2.4 billion, according to the 2015 Marijuana Business Factbook. The amount spent is even less when compared to the marijuana industry’s $7.2 billion-$8.6 billion economic impact in 2014.

Still, the alcohol and tobacco industries spend a similar portion of their annual revenues on federal lobbying, though those industries are legal and much more established than the marijuana sector.

To be sure, there are many groups that advocate for marijuana. For example, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and Students for Sensible Drug Policy are key supporters, with most of their efforts focused on the state and local levels.

Each of these groups devote six figures to advocacy – in some cases up to 80% of their annual budgets – and play a key role in shaping the future of the industry.

Advocacy includes activities such as awareness campaigns, educational events and rallies, as well as lobbying. Lobbying is narrowly defined as direct efforts undertaken to call for specific action on particular legislation at either the state or federal level.

As the industry continues to mature, the importance of marijuana businesses leveraging that influence – either by donating to one of these groups or directly supporting politicians – to bolster the entire industry and lobby for business-friendly regulation will continue to grow.

Becky Olson can be reached at 

John Schroyer can be reached at