Big Marijuana On the Rise

By Paul Gaita 03/28/14

The National Cannabis Industry Association has appointed its first full-time lobbyist, paving the way for marijuana to become big business.

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Michael Correia Photo via

The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), which recently announced its first national convention in Denver, CO, has taken another step toward the business mainstream – and gaining political clout -  by appointing its first official full-time lobbyist, Michael Correia.

The 44-year-old former congressional staffer previously served as director of federal affairs for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization that helps corporations and legislators draft conservative bills with funding from, among others, the Koch Brothers and the Coors family’s Castle Rock Foundation.

The leap from right-leaning politics to the marijuana industry may seem like a stretch, but in an interview with the Washington Post, Correia noted that his duties were largely limited to Internet-related issues and alumni relations, and had no connection to the group’s efforts to pass draconian laws like the Truth in Sentencing Act, which enforced mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders.

His role as lobbyist for the NCIA would focus on tax code and banking matters for marijuana businesses –in short, efforts that would take the cannabis industry out of the shadows and into the light of mainstream business. But whether or not he actually supports legalization remains a mystery. “Luckily, I don’t have to get into that argument or discussion,” he said.

However, not every pro-marijuana supporter has been enthused about this shift toward widespread acceptance. As the Washington Post article stated, figures like Mark Kleiman, a public policy professor at the University of California, Los Angeles and head of Washington state’s marijuana policy, see the shift towards political legitimacy as an alliance with elements driven more by financial gain than personal freedom.

“I think what we’re seeing now is the transition from the movement to the lobby,” said Kleiman. “The hippies are being pushed aside by the suits. That’s too bad, because the interest of the hippies has been consistent with the public view, and the interest of the suits is opposed.”

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.