If there’s one thing that works in politics, it’s lobbying
FACT: Every citizen has the right to try and influence their representatives in government. Those who are paid to do it are called lobbyists.
Lobbying has grown in recent years, used by business now as a way for issue groups to get their point across. Lobbying provides those companies a way to discuss the issuewith a person who can move thing in the right direction.
The flow goes both ways. Lobbying is important to those in authority, too because it’s a key part of the democratic process. It helps governments establish the issues that are important to their citizens and other interests.
In a single month in 2015, the top 10 lobby groups in Washington spent $64m attempting to influence the government. Spending on lobbying is increasing over time, too.
Lobbying works. Influence groups are spending increasing amounts of money to influence the agenda in this way.
It looks like lobbying might have begun around the question of legal marijuana
Until now, discussions about marijuana have been had almost universally behind the scenes. Marijuana’s constantly improving public image, an increasingly tolerant population and, critically, the movement of large amounts of money in to the growing and sale of marijuana, have all served to increase the momentum marijuana is getting. It could be that as money flows in to cannabis production and sale, cannabis will find itself on an even playing field with similar industries which have PR at their disposal now – alcohol companies, for example.
Overnight shifts of policy on medical marijuana happened last week in the UK
In the UK last month, almost overnight, both sides of politics changed their mind from a strong anti stance to medical marijuana, to a position of ‘let’s do it’. Legalize medical marijuana for the affected epileptic patient that is.
Following the remarkable turnaround, the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, Sally Davies has now been drawn in to offer a view as to how the country can sensibly move forward as concerns national drug policy. Davies has been asked by the government to undertake a review of cannabis licensing specifically with a view towards determining whether it could be used as a therapeutic drug appropriately, at some point in the future.
Was lobbying behind the UK’s overnight move to legal medical marijuana?
One possibility which has been presented (link above) to explain the nature of the rapid turnaround on support for legalization in the UK is that it may have been staged as part of a PR stunt.
At the heart of the discussion was the issue of an extremely moving and troubling story concerning an epileptic child – Billy Caldwell from Northern Ireland. His mother flew to Canada to get legal medicinal cannabis for her son. On re-entry to the UK from Canada, she challenged Border Guards to take it from her. They did. The subsequent outrage in the press caused the change in government thinking.
Increased PR involvement could be taken as a threat in some ways, too.Theresa May is the Prime Minister of the UK. Her husband, Philip May works for the company with the largest stake in GW Pharmaceuticals. That’s the company which makes Sativex – the only cannabis based drug in the UK which it is legal to consume. Mrs. May would find it hard to explain why her husband can make money out of selling the drug but no one else can.
Marijuana companies are sponsoring political activity
Similar to lobbying is the sponsorship of political activity which can benefit the industry. In Orlando, marijuana companies are sponsoring a local lawyer, John Morgan.
Morgan has attempted for many years to lobby to have medical marijuana legalized. Now it is reported that he is contacting marijuana businesses to solicit funding specifically for use in as part of the campaign to see it legalized.
With sponsorship, Morgan will be able to get the issue raised on the ballet so that constituents can vote on the issue. They need a ‘Supermajority’ of 60% to see marijuana legalized in Florida, but surveys indicate that sort of majority is not necessarily beyond reach.
PR could go on to have even more influence
FACT: There is a simple fact behind the PR associated with the legalization of either recreational or medicinal cannabis. The majority of right minded voters in Western democracies now support legalization.
Some territories have been more advanced than others in recognizing that. However, in simple terms, people want marijuana to be legal and our governments are not making that happen. The fact that marijuana hasn’t been legalized, despite the majority now supporting legalization represents an opportunity for the use of PR.
PR offers the opportunity for the industry to move in to more ‘earned’ than ‘bought’ space of customer consideration. Marijuana is a hot topic. Specialist cannabis related websites want unique specific content on how the industry is developing. Bigger media assets – the Channel 7s and Channel 9s of the world seem to find the story titillating. It’s no longer out of the ordinary to see a cannabis company represented on the ABC in a mainstream financial discussion.
Marijuana legalization has always benefitted from ground up support. Now money is involved, the cause may well also be supported by some well funded top down influence.