At a time when support for some form of federal legalization of cannabis is at a record high, it’s surprising when you hear states and politicians failing to take action. Sure, there are a lot of misconceptions about cannabis still floating around. But, there are also powerful industries lobbying against the blossoming cannabis demand in order to protect their bottom line.
Here’s a list of the top industries fighting to keep cannabis illegal.
Medical Cannabis is a taking the world by storm. Even without federal research into the medical efficacy of the plant or FDA approval, the anecdotal evidence is overwhelming. People suffering from epilepsy, cancer, depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, Muscular Sclerosis, chronic pain, and more are all seeing the benefit in using a natural plant as treatment rather than harmful, and oftentimes addictive, pharmaceutical drugs.
The Big Pharma lobby is one of the biggest in America, with very deep pockets. They are working, and spending, hard to keep cannabis illegal. Insys Therapeutics, a large drug maker, spent $500,000 lobbying against legalization in Arizona during the 2016 election.
Insys has created a drug called Dronabinol, a synthetic cannabinoid compound, recently approved by the FDA. The company itself claimed in a recent SEC filing that legalizing cannabis could “significantly limit the commercial success of any dronabinol product.”
Unfortunately, their money seemed to work. Arizona was the only state with cannabis on the ballot in 2016 that failed to pass the initiative.
As more states vote to legalize recreational cannabis, more and more consumers are choosing weed over alcohol. The alcohol industry could lose up to $2 billion thanks to legal cannabis.
The alcohol industry has responded by throwing funding at anti-legalization efforts. In Massachusetts, another state voting to legalize and regulate recreational cannabis in 2016, saw intervention by alcohol interests. The Beer Distributors of Massachusetts and The Wine & Wholesalers of Massachusetts donated $75,000 to an anti-legalization campaign.
It’s worth noting this fear may be unfounded. In Colorado, the alcohol industry has seen an increase since legalizing recreational cannabis.
Private Prisons & Prison Guard Union
Private prisons and the Prison Guard Union are two of the largest, and most powerful, lobbies in the country.
Private prisons are full of low-level, nonviolent drug law offenders, many of them doing time for cannabis. Without local law enforcement making these arrests, private prison beds go empty. You would think this is a great thing, but for Private Prisons, these empty beds mean lower profits. Lower profits, in turn, mean less benefits and employment opportunities for prison guards.
Private Prison companies have spent millions of dollars lobbying against laws that would reduce mass incarceration in the United States. Two of the largest private prison corporations, Corrections Corporation of America and GEO have spend $970,000 and between $250,000 to $660,000, respectively, each year.
In 2015 alone, California jailed over 6,000 people for cannabis, or cannabis-related, charges. And that’s a state with a long history of tolerance toward the plant. In 2005, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association gave $1 million to successfully defeat Proposition 8 that would have legalized cannabis.
In 2016, we saw California legalize recreational cannabis in spite of opposition.
A little known, but incredibly significant, fact is that local police departments receive federal funding and military-grade equipment by agreeing to participate in the War On Drugs. Beyond federal and state tax funding, departments are also able to make a lot of money off the property they can legally seize when acting on behalf of the Drug War in an act called “asset forfeiture”.
Many local police departments have come to rely on this supplemental income, and aren’t willing to give it up easily. But with this additional funding comes quotas that police departments are required to meet. Unfortunately, low-level cannabis consumers and dealers are an easy target for racking up arrests.
According to Opensecrets.org, “The National Fraternal Order of Police has spent at least $220,000 on lobbying efforts; the National Association of Police Organizations, $160,000; the International Union of Police Associations, $80,000; and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, $80,000.”
Have you ever been to a wedding without alcohol? Chances are, unless there was some amazing food or a really great band, you probably found yourself wishing for a stiff drink at some point during the event.
This is not uncommon. Weddings can get a bit boring, especially if you’re not close to the couple who’s getting married, which is one of the many reasons alcohol is so often served at weddings. After all, it’s the best way to make sure everyone has a great time. Right?
Well… no. No, it’s not. It turns out there’s an alternative to serving alcohol at your wedding: serving cannabis.
Why Hate on Alcohol
We’re not. We’re just saying, having an open bar, or any kind of bar at your wedding, can sometimes be a very negative experience. Some guests may take unlimited access to alcohol and the promise of a designated driver or nearby hotel room a little too far. Before you know it your cousin has nabbed and chugged half a bottle of vodka, knocked over a buffet table, mooned your grandmother, and run off with one of the bridesmaids.
Not exactly the classiest thing to do but hey, open bar means drink all you want, right?
Why Cannabis May be a Better Choice for Your Wedding
Yes, drinking is fun but, as most of us know all too well, it can have a plethora of downsides: pounding headaches, lowered inhibitions, and, in severe cases, alcohol poisoning.
Cannabis, on the other hand, doesn’t have any of these downsides. It lightens the mood and provide guests with a fun way to party, without risking anyone feeling like crap the next day.
If you’re still not sure about why and how cannabis can be a better option for your wedding than alcohol, consider the following:
- Unlike alcohol, cannabis isn’t going to make your guests do things they (and you) will regret the next day
- Cannabis is cheaper than alcohol. Like, way cheaper.
- Just a little bit of cannabis can help take away the nerves if your guests are feeling nervous about conquering the dance floor or you’re anxious about talking to people you haven’t seen in years. It would take at least a couple drinks to accomplish this and by then you may be too drunk to do anything!
- With cannabis, you tend to become more aware of your surroundings, instead of less aware as you would when drinking. It also tends to make music sound better, food taste better, and often evokes a warm, loving feeling that’s perfect for weddings.
- Cannabis is perfect for Jewish weddings because it’s totally Kosher, whereas some alcohols, like wine, gin, and vodka, are not.
Cannabis is an excellent alternative for those looking to have a super chill wedding without the risk and expense that comes with alcohol. That said, it’s your day. Do what you want.
Just note that mixing the two can make the effects of each feel stronger. If you choose to offer both, consider asking guests to make a choice between alcohol and cannabis in their RSVP and providing colored wristbands so bartenders and budtenders can tell who is supposed to have what.
There’s a lot to consider when planning a wedding. Flowers, food, clothes, venues, invitations; the list is virtually endless. As different as all these different aspects of wedding planning are, there’s one common theme: money.
In the United States, the average cost of a wedding is $26,720. That’s pretty crazy, considering the fact that some people are spending enough to buy a car in just one day.
There are definitely parts of the wedding that cost more than others. For instance, party favors and invitations are cheap compared to the cost of things like jewelry and photography. But alcohol is, by far, the priciest part of a wedding. In fact, in that average wedding we mentioned earlier, nearly 20 percent is spent on providing an open bar. And for what? So your guests can get too drunk to remember your big day?
If this seems like a waste, it is. Swapping alcohol for cannabis is a much better way to make sure your guests have a good time. Plus, it can be much, much cheaper.
Don’t believe us? Let’s break it down.
The Cost of Alcohol for a Wedding
For all of these calculations, we’ll assume you’re going to have a pretty small wedding with just 100 guests. On average, bars at weddings are usually open for about five hours. It’s safe to say your guests are having at least one drink per hour, but since you always want to overestimate these kinds of things, we’ll assume they’re going to have more and plan for each consuming 9 drinks during the reception.
Everyone drinks something different, so we’ll plan as though each of these guests is going to have 3 beers, 3 glasses of wine, and 3 liquor-based drinks. Each beer is 12 oz., each glass of wine is 5 oz., and each cocktail contains 1.5 oz. of liquor. We used a wedding alcohol calculator to help with the math.
So, for your wedding of 100 guests at 9 drinks each, you’d need:
- 13 cases of beer containing 24 bottles each
- 60 bottles of wine able to pour 5 glasses each
- 18 bottle of liquor able to pour 17 drinks each
Let’s make one more assumption and say you’re probably not going to go with bottom shelf liquor. To get our final total, let’s say that:
- Each case of beer costs $20
- Each bottle of liquor costs $20
- Each bottle of wine costs $15
What’s this add up to? You’re looking at a bar tab of around $1,500. Again, this is assuming your bar is open for 5 hours and each of your 100 guests consumes 9 drinks during that time. Your actual cost may be a bit more or a bit less, but this is a good ballpark figure to go on.
The Cost of Cannabis for a Wedding
The easiest way to supply your wedding with cannabis, is to hire a budtending service. These companies will supply budtenders, glass accessories, and however much flower, edibles, and concentrates you think you’ll need.
In a recent interview with Mic, Andrew Miuere, owner of Top Shelf Budtending, said that his company’s services start as low as $250. That’s flower, glass, and budtenders for an entire night for just $250.
But maybe you’re not interested in a budtender and want to do everything yourself. If so, our friends at Love and Marij have some tips on planning the cost of flower, edibles, and concentrates.
Many couples choose to serve flower at their wedding. After all, that’s what most people think of when they picture cannabis and it’s the cheapest way to serve it. Half a gram each is likely more than enough to get your guests lifted, so for 100 guests you’re going to need 50 grams.
There are 28 grams in an ounce, so let’s go ahead and assume you purchase 2 ounces, just to be safe. In most places, you can get a high quality ounce of flower for around $150, which means you can have plenty of flower to last the whole night for a modest $300.
If you’re looking to mix it up by providing edibles, the pricing changes a bit. Most people who have never had edibles don’t need more than 5-10 mg to last the whole evening, whereas regular users may need up to 50 mg to feel an effect. To ensure there is plenty to go around, we’ll plan for each guest eating 25 mg total.
Again, if we’re overestimating, we can assume that a 100 mg edible will cost around $30. Since each will accommodate 4 guests, you’ll need a total of 25 edibles which will cost you $750. That means your guests can basically eat all the edibles they want and you’re still only spending half what you would on a bar tab.
If you and most of your guests are experienced users, you can step it up a notch by providing concentrates. Wax is one of the most popular cannabis concentrates, so we’ll use that in this example. The half a gram per guest rule works well with wax. Even for an experienced user, a half gram dab is going to do the trick nicely. So for your 100 guests, you’d need 50 grams of wax.
Wax can vary in its pricing, so we’ll calculate two figures based on wax that costs $50/gram and wax that runs $100/gram.
If you go with the lower end, and assume $50 per gram, you’re looking at spending $2,500. Double that for high end wax at $100/gram, and the grand total for the night would be $5,000.
Cannabis or Alcohol – The Choice is Yours
So there you have it. As promised, providing cannabis for your wedding can be way cheaper than serving alcohol. Flower is definitely the most efficient way to go, plus it’s pretty fun to see your guests lighting up. Edibles cost more than flower, but are still much cheaper than booze.
Concentrates are definitely costly, so if you want to include them, you might consider offering mostly flower and have some concentrates available for heavier users to partake in. No matter what you decide, you can have a nice mix of flower, edibles, and concentrates and still pay less than you would for an open bar. At the end of the day, you should choose whatever you think will ensure your guests have a great time and you have a wedding you’ll never forget.
In a survey conducted by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 76 percent of respondents said alcohol is a serious issue in their communities, more so than any other drug.
In order, respondents ranked alcohol as the most troubling substance, above prescription painkillers, cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin. Marijuana ranked last on the list. These findings are in line with the CDC’s risk assessment of commonly abused substances and how likely a person is to overdose from each substance.
This study highlights what is already knows about substance abuse in the United States. According to the CDC, more Americans are dying from alcohol, opioid and other drug overdoses than from car accidents. None of those deaths can be attributed to an overdose of marijuana. What’s more, the study shows that Americans want more options, research and resources for treating substance abuse (a task that America fails at compared to other countries) and that may be due to 40 percent of respondents knowing someone who suffers from alcohol or other substance abuse.
Although marijuana is lowest on the list, the study suggests Americans aren’t yet comfortable with fully legalizing marijuana. While 61 percent were in favor of cannabis legalization, 43 percent of those respondents wanted restrictions on how much can be purchased at a time, and about 25 percent supported cannabis legalization only in a medical capacity.
In terms of criminalizing drug use, respondents feel as though different races are more or less likely to be convicted of drug crimes, despite a study showing no major correlation between race and substance abuse. 66 percent of respondents felt is was very likely that an African American suffering from drug abuse would be convicted of drug possession, compared to a 55 percent likelihood for Hispanics and a 30 percent likelihood for caucasians.
Americans also think substance abuse occurs more based on location and socioeconomic conditions. Most Americans think substance abuse is more likely to occur in urban areas (53 percent) and that poor people are more likely to be convicted of drug possession (63 percent) compared to middle and upper class Americans.
The findings from the study illustrate the imbalance between the public’s concerns about specific substances, and their potential for abuse, and government priorities and methods for fighting illegal drug use and criminalizing substance abuse.
A survey released by JAMA Psychiatry on October 21 revealed that the number of American adults who admit to using cannabis has doubled between 2001 and 2013. In 2001, only four percent of adults admitted to using cannabis. Twelve years later, in 2013, the number had increased to nearly 10 percent. Concluded the survey:
“The prevalence of marijuana use more than doubled between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013.”
Many media outlets have noted that increased use coincided with a more lenient attitude toward cannabis on the part of American adults and an increased willingness to legalize the herb. The most recent survey from Gallup regarding Americans’ acceptance of cannabis reveals that 58 percent support full legalization of the plant and the many medical and recreational products that can be produced from it. This is a significant shift. The latest polling numbers reveal that the nation has gone from a minority (48 percent) supporting cannabis legalization in 2013 to a majority supporting it only two years later.
In 2002, at the beginning of the period covered by the JAMA study, only one-third of Americans favored legalization of cannabis, according to the Gallup numbers. Many speculate that the successful examples of legalization set forth by states like Colorado, Washington, and Oregon — and the resulting media attention devoted to these “experiments” — has begun to educate average citizens and has brought the topic into the mainstream. The JAMA Psychiatry figures obviously don’t account for this additional increase during the past two years.
As additional states come online and Canada screams its intent to the international community to legalize recreational cannabis within its borders, the topic of marijuana and its prohibition will become increasingly common in the media and on the minds of average consumers. This will encourage many to investigate the topic to learn the facts. Of these, many will conclude that cannabis is a safe and therapeutic herb that is considerably better than alcohol and opiates.
Increased use of cannabis and the economic and public health success of states like Oregon and Washington will continue to educate average Americans of the relative benefits of cannabis use, especially when compared to alcohol and pharmaceutical drugs and their negative, often life-threatening side effects.
Photo credit: Drug Policy Alliance