PHILADELPHIA — This isn’t your teenage son’s marijuana industry anymore; it’s your button-down dad’s business — at least at the Democratic National Convention.
Even as pro-marijuana activists marched this week in Philadelphia with a fake 51-foot joint, teams of industry leaders and lobbyists were busy doing the kind of work one would expect from the beer or pharmaceutical industry: holding receptions, talking to politicians and discussing regulations.
In other words, the boring stuff.
“We’re dealing with an industry that’s a lot more suit and tie,” said Michael Bronstein, co-founder of the American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp. “That’s what it felt like — it was a Chamber (of Commerce) event, not a protest.”
The change in attitude is a reflection of how much has changed since the 2012 election.
Led by Colorado, four states now regulate pot like alcohol and about 20 other states have legalized medical marijuana, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. This year at least a half-dozen states will vote on recreational or medical use as well.
“In many ways the DNC was a coming-out party for us,” Bronstein said. “If you came here as someone interested solely in the cannabis industry, there was something for you every day.”
That included a Sunday fundraiser for the Marijuana Policy Project, which promotes legalization, and a Monday meet-and-greet for policymakers and industry leaders.
Pot and politics
Weed news and interviews: Get podcasts of The Cannabist Show.
Subscribe to our newsletter here.
Watch The Cannabist Show.
Peruse our Cannabist-themed merchandise (T’s, hats, hoodies) at Cannabist Shop.
The reception “was a packed house,” said Andy Williams, the CEO of Medicine Man, which claims Denver’s largest single marijuana dispensary. “There was a lot of conversation about the industry and how it’s growing up.”
Marijuana activists had a reason to celebrate this week too. Now included in the Democratic platform is a provision — advocated by Coloradan Dennis Obduskey — that calls for the party to set “reasoned pathway for future legalization.”
“That is a big win,” Williams said.
Tied to that victory was a shift in how convention-goers talk about marijuana. Now it’s more common to hear a conversation about business regulations instead of just legalization.
“This is an industry going through the logical procession of maturity,” Williams said. He said new goals include efforts to remove barriers to credit-card purchases as well as the use of banks by marijuana companies.
Lately, the weed industry has begun to play a bigger role in politics too. In March, supporters of the cannabis industry held a fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Arvada, who has tried to help with the banking issue.
A desire to align federal law with Colorado law is “growing by leaps and bounds to the point where we got a position in the (Democratic) platform on it,” Perlmutter said.
Given the success in Philadelphia, one industry consultant said it was likely the marijuana business would have a presence in 2020 at both the Republican and Democratic conventions.
“It’s such a major signpost we’re passing,” said Leslie Bocskor of Electrum Partners. “I expect in four years we will be at the RNC.”