• January 21, 2021

Anti-marijuana group SAM nears its last breath

 Anti-marijuana group SAM nears its last breath

Anti-cannabis legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana nears its last breath in its most underwhelming assault on the cannabis industry yet. 

In a recent report aimed at ginning up anti-cannabis media stories, SAM states that the cannabis industry has donated a whopping $58,203 to Colorado’s six members of Congress. That’s right. A stunning $58,203 to federal candidates. 

Just to put into perspective what this means from “Big Marijuana” in comparison to other industries, the pharmaceutical and health products industry poured $216 million into House and Senate races in the 2018 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics in a report highlighted by Roll Call.   

SAM was able to generate a few headlines from its sad report, including in anti-legalization billionaire Philip Anschutz’s ColoradoPolitics.com. Don’t hold it against the online political news site, the SAM story was written “special to Colorado Politics,” which means hired gun Tom Ramstack was tapped to carry Anschutz’s torch. To his credit, Ramstack mentioned the pharmaceutical industry’s contributions, but not until the last two paragraphs of the story. At least Roll Call thought to mention it earlier in the story.  

Instead, the Colorado Politics story is hinged on a bogus claim that the cannabis industry has some sort of significant political influence through its $58,203 in contributions to Colorado’s congressional delegation. The story largely takes aim at U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat from Arvada, and Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, who previously served Colorado’s Congressional District 2 in Boulder before being elected governor last November.

Both officials have embraced cannabis legalization and its political power. Polis latched onto the cannabis industry as a campaign strategy and went on to defeat Republican Walker Stapleton by 10.5 points, a stunning margin for purple Colorado. While no elected official should feel obligated to respond to misguided claims by SAM, to his credit, Perlmutter’s office pointed out just how silly the report is.

A spokesman for Perlmutter appropriately pointed out in the Colorado Politics story that cannabis is a “legitimate business in the state of Colorado” that has been legalized by the state’s voters “not once but twice.” 

The willingness of Perlmutter’s office to respond to SAM’s bogus claims is a noble gesture on the part of the congressman. It’s also further proof of the anti-cannabis group’s fleeting influence. Look no further than Colorado’s U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who chaired the National Republican Senatorial Committee through a relatively successful 2018 mid-term. During a blue wave in the House, Gardner staved off a flip of the Senate. 

All throughout the mid-term, the senator from Colorado embraced cannabis legalization. He is carrying a bill in Congress called the STATES Act, which would insulate legal marijuana states from federal intervention and legalize cannabis banking. Perlmutter has also championed the cause of cannabis banking. 

There was a time when politicians were frightened by groups like SAM targeting them for working on pro-cannabis issues. But those times are gone. SAM is nearing its last breath as officials and candidates from both sides of the aisle embrace legalization. And the cannabis industry will continue to support candidates and officials who advance responsible regulation.  

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon who is named by SAM on a national list of candidates accepting cannabis industry contributions, was proud enough to issue a tweet.

“It’s not a surprise that I’m #1 on this list,” Blumenauer tweeted in response. “I’ve been working on this issue since 1973 when Oregon was the first state to decriminalize possession. It’s also not a surprise that this group” — an evident reference to SAM — “opposes reform & keeps their [moneybag symbol] quiet. Legalization is coming. Deal with it.”

And as the Perlmutter spokesman added, “Colorado voters spoke resoundingly, not once but twice, in legalizing medical and recreational marijuana. It is a legitimate business in the state of Colorado. Rep. Perlmutter’s focus in this area is to align federal and state laws to allow these legitimate businesses to have access to the financial industry. Without this access we are putting the safety of the public, employees and law enforcement at risk.” 

Peter Marcus

Peter Marcus served as the Senior Statehouse Reporter for the Colorado Springs Gazette where he co-launched ColoradoPolitics.com, covering politics, the governor’s office, the Colorado Legislature, Congress, and federal, state and local governments. He joined in November 2016 from The Durango Herald. The Washington Post twice named Marcus one of the top state-based political and legislative reporters in the nation. He also has won over a dozen awards from the Colorado Press Association. In prior positions, Marcus worked for the Colorado Statesman, a Denver-based political weekly, and The Denver Daily News, a former free daily newspaper in Denver, where he covered City Hall, politics, and had an entertainment column. Before that, Marcus worked for the Longmont Times-Call. An Ithaca College graduate, Marcus studied journalism and creative writing, before moving to Colorado from New York in 2004.

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