New marijuana group, including tobacco and alcohol firms, pushes for reform

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The major stakeholders pushing Congress to enact sweeping federal marijuana reform just got bigger with the formation of a new band of businesses and industry experts who believe legalization is a foregone conclusion and that the real prize will be shaping a nationwide MJ regulatory framework.

According to a news release, the Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education and Regulation is a combination of major players from mostly outside the traditional marijuana space but includes some that already have a financial stake in the industry.

Members include:

  • Altria Client Services, the producer of Marlboro cigarettes, a major investor in Canadian marijuana producer Cronos Group.
  • Constellation Brands, an alcohol company that invested nearly $4 billion in Canadian cannabis company Canopy Growth.
  • Molson Coors Beverage Co., a beermaker that has already entered the cannabis space with infused beverages.
  • The Brink’s Co., a private security firm.
  • National Association of Convenience Stores.
  • The Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers.
  • Convenience Distribution Association.

Those advising the coalition through its “Center of Excellence” include:

  • Former Minority Cannabis Business Association President Shanita Penny.
  • John Hudak of the Brookings Institution.
  • Brandy Axdahl of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility.
  • Derek Smith of the Resource Innovation Institute.
  • Caroline Kitchens of the R Street Institute.
  • Karmen Hanson of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
  • Dr. Staci Gruber of McLean Hospital in Massachusetts.

Andrew Freedman, who oversaw the rollout of Colorado’s recreational marijuana market under then-Gov. John Hickenlooper, is the coalition’s executive director.

“The conversation is no longer about simply whether or not to legalize cannabis – the states and their constituents have already answered that question,” Freedman said in the release.

“The question before us now is how to craft a responsible federal framework for a legalized cannabis marketplace, and to do that right, we need all voices at the table.”

The new group was announced only a month after the formation of the U.S. Cannabis Council, which is comprised of even more businesses, advocacy groups and activists.

– John Schroyer