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Marijuana businesses form coalition to defend against federal intervention

March 27, 2017 Updated: March 27, 2017 at 1:04 pm
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A new national coalition of businesses in the legal marijuana trade plans to fight federal efforts to intervene in states' regulation of cannabis.

The chairman of the New Federalism Fund is Neal Levine of Boulder, senior vice president of government affairs for LivWell Enlightened Health, a Colorado company with 14 locations.

They're not messing around. The fund's lobbying firm? Powerhouse Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck of Denver, which earned $25 million last year lobbying for everybody from McDonald's and Comcast to the Navajo Nation and University of Utah.

That's muscle.

"As the president stated in his recent address to Congress, every problem facing our nation can be solved by working together," Levine said in a statement. "We agree and look forward to working with the president and congress to support and improve the legal framework for cannabis that promotes public safety, local economic development and our federalist system."

Alicia Wallace of The Cannabist was the first to report about the new organization on Thursday.

Four of the seven founding members are from Colorado: LivWell Enlightened Health, Dixie Elixirs, Native Roots and Medicine Man.

They are joined by Scotts Miracle-Gro, marijuana private equity firm Privateer Holdings of Seattle and Tryke Companies of Tempe, Ariz.

The group's priorities are "maintaining the freedom to operate," holding off federal law enforcement and making sure the federal tax code isn't used as a weapon of prejudice against pot business.

"All of these priorities have become increasingly important in light of the recent statements from the Department of Justice and the administration concerning their possible approaches to federal cannabis laws," the fund said in an announcement.

By working in Washington, the fund thinks it can impress upon the Congress that the pot industry is well-structured, helps sick people and puts billions into the economy, as well as an employment base in the tens of thousands in the 28 states with some form of legalization.

The legal, regulated industry all but eliminates the street-level criminal market and impeding traffickers and cartels, the fund argues.

"Marijuana isn't going anywhere," said Levine, a board member of the National Cannabis Industry Association. "Someone is going to sell it. So the question is, do we want regulated and compliant businesses who check IDs and pay their taxes to do that, or drug dealers? We want our elected officials to know that a regulated cannabis industry is the best way to stop the illegal drug trade while growing our local economies. Local control over regulated commerce just makes sense. It's a building block of federalism for good reason."

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