Lobbyists race to cash in on cannabis boomPosted by On

Lobbying firms are taking advantage of the cannabis boom as a number of bills on the industry move through Congress and state legislatures.

As businesses look for help dealing with new legislative and regulatory challenges, K Street is rushing to capitalize, highlighted this week by the highest-grossing firm, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, launching a new “Cannabis and Industrial Hemp Industry Group.” 

“This practice group [is] now formalized but the work that we’ve been doing for a while has just been growing organically,” said Melissa Kuipers Blake, co-chair of the group.

“I expect that continues to happen as folks understand they need lawyers with high level expertise.”

Brownstein is headquartered in Denver, where Blake is based, and has offices throughout the West Coast, including Santa Barbara, Calif., where the other co-chair, Amy Steinfeld, is based. Both Colorado and California have legalized marijuana.

“I think the reason why it’s a natural fit for our firm to be doing this, especially in California, is that we have been working with the regulatory agencies for years on other projects,” Steinfeld told The Hill. “New farmers coming into this field don’t really realize they’re entering what’s really a compliance industry because it’s so highly regulated.”

And she said that moving public opinion on the issue is an important part of lobbying effort. 

“We’ve been really working with the cultivators to form an industry group because this is such a new industry and its still subject to a lot of opposition from local nimbies,” she said. “Not only do we provide legal advice but we also…[connect] them with other growers and other folks in the industry, and also at the state and local levels, to really kind of destigmatized cannabis.”

Terry Holt, spokesman for the National Cannabis Roundtable (NCR), an organization to lobby for pro-marijuana policy, said firms creating lobbying groups focused on cannabis businesses is an acknowledgement of the industry’s explosive growth.

“The fastest growing industry is getting a lot of attention from the lobbying community in D.C.,” Holt said. “I think we’re going to see a lot of folks entering the space and that is just part of the momentum we need that will make big changes.”

But those moves have also brought K Street criticism from those groups opposed to relaxing marijuana laws.

“Combining one of the biggest D.C. lobbying firms with the addiction business never ends well in…

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