Activist groups criticize new tobacco, alcohol-funded cannabis coalition

Did you miss the webinar “Women Leaders in Cannabis: Shattering the Grass Ceiling?” Head to MJBiz YouTube to watch it now!

A second pro-cannabis legalization activist organization has taken a swipe at a new group that aims to shape federal marijuana legalization and is comprised largely of corporate tobacco and alcohol interests.

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) – which for years has fought for federal marijuana reform and been involved in numerous MJ legalization campaigns across the U.S. – singled out the Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education and Regulation (CPEAR) in a statement.

CPEAR’s financial backers have an “abysmal track record of using predatory tactics to sell their products and build their brands,” DPA Executive Director Kassandra Frederique said in a statement, adding that “Big Alcohol and Tobacco” often target the same communities of color that have “borne the brunt of (MJ) prohibition.”

CPEAR, which announced its entry into marijuana activism earlier this month, has created a stir in the industry, given that its founders include the parent company of Marlboro cigarettes and two alcohol giants, the Molson Coors Beverage Co. and Constellation Brands.

“It is predictable, but reprehensible, that industries that have allowed the arbitrary distinction between licit and illicit drugs to stand for so long now want to end a form of prohibition in order to bolster their bottom line,” Frederique said.

“They stood by for decades as communities of color were criminalized and robbed of economic opportunities, only to try to swoop in when it is politically and financially convenient to do so.”

The DPA statement came a day after CPEAR Executive Director Andrew Freedman said during a call with reporters that unity among pro-legalization forces still needs “a lot more work” and that his coalition’s efforts are intended to be “complementary” to that of other legalization advocates, “not combative.”

DPA is the second legacy activist group to condemn CPEAR’s interest in federal MJ legalization.

The leader of the original nonprofit devoted to marijuana legalization, NORML, also was criticial of CPEAR a few days after the announcement of its formation.

NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri wrote to supporters that “these corporate interests are seeking to swoop in and shape the landscape in a manner that works best for them, not for you.”

Altieri singled out the still-contentious question of home marijuana cultivation, which remains a hotly debated topic in several operational state-legal marijuana markets and which some industry interests have lobbied against in the past.

“We’ve seen how big corporate money and influence have corrupted and corroded many other industries,” Altieri wrote.

“We can’t let the legal marijuana industry become their next payday.”

– John Schroyer