Cannabis Freedom Alliance Brings Koch Brothers, Social Justice Advocates Together to End Federal Marijuana Prohibition

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A new advocacy group with ties to billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch has joined the fight to legalize cannabis.

Announced Tuesday, the Cannabis Freedom Alliance (CFA) has a stated goal of ending the “prohibition and criminalization of cannabis in the United States.”

News of the group’s launch was first reported by Politico.

According to a news release, the organization's founding members include several notable groups:

  • Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a right-leaning political advocacy group founded by the Koch brothers
  • The Weldon Project’s Mission Green initiative, a nonprofit that works on a broad range of criminal justice issues
  • The Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank
  • The Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce (GACC), an industry trade organization.

“Ending cannabis prohibition and incarceration is a moral imperative,” said Weldon Angelos, founder of The Weldon Project.

Angelos, who was sentenced to 55 years in prison for selling cannabis to an undercover police officer, was one of 15 people pardoned by former President Donald Trump last December. 

“For too long, cruel laws punishing non-violent cannabis offenses have destroyed the lives of individuals throughout this country — myself included," he added. 

The CFA's steering members hope to convince Senate Republicans to back federal cannabis reform, including removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, ending criminalization, and conducting research.

“We need 10 to 12 Republican senators,” Angelos told Politico. “With Koch’s influence, I think that's likely a possibility.”

The formation of the CFA comes as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) prepares to introduce “comprehensive marijuana reform legislation” this month.

“I support decriminalization at the federal level, and we’ll be introducing legislation with a few of my colleague shortly,” he said recently.

While an overwhelming majority of Americans believe cannabis should be legalized at the federal level, and reform has bipartisan support in Congress. However, Schumer — who told Politico last week that he intends to move forward with legislation even if President Biden isn’t on board — will still need 60 votes to pass a bill.

It is believed that a Democratic-led Senate presents the best opportunity for cannabis legalization to pass, but it remains unclear how many Republican Senators would back Schumer’s forthcoming proposal.

That’s where the CFA comes in.

Angelos told Politico that the new coalition would work to convince Republicans like Sens. Rand Paul (KY) and Mike Lee (Utah) to support marijuana legalization.

“It is high time that Congress and the President right this wrong and allow those harmed by cannabis prohibition the chance to participate in the cannabis industry like the millionaires and billionaires doing so now,” Angelos said via the release. “But we can’t do this alone. We need both sides to come together on this, which is why we launched this coalition.”

17 states and Washington D.C. have legalized adult-use cannabis, and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has promised to sign recently passed legislation into law.

Exisiting legal markets include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington, Vermont.

Meanwhile, South Dakota voters also approved adult-use cannabis last November, however a state judge ruled last month that the measure, Amendment A, was unconstitutional. A state Supreme Court appeal is currently pending.

Elsewhere, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam asked lawmakers to approve proposed amendments to a bill legalizing adult-use cannabis. Those changes were accepted on Wednesday, making Virginia the 17th state to legalize recreational marijuana. As of July 1, 2021, possession of cannabis and limited home growing will be allowed in the Old Dominion State. 

Several other states — including Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Minnesota — are also looking to establish legal adult-use markets.

For his part, Brent Gardner, the chief government affairs officers of Americans for Prosperity, said his group was “excited to work alongside our partners to bring cannabis businesses into the light."

The CFA will also push for “competitive and reasonable tax rates,” and policies that ensure formerly incarcerated individuals as well as “current grey-market operators” are able to participate in the legal market.

Perhaps an indication of how close the U.S. might actually be to legalizing cannabis at the federal level, three new federal lobbying groups focused on the marijuana sector have already launched this year.

Last month, the Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation (CPEAR) — which counts alcohol companies Molson Coors Beverage Company and Constellation Brands, as well as tobacco giant Altria among its membership — announced its launch

In February, the U.S. Cannabis Council (USCC), whose founding members include companies like Canopy Growth, Curaleaf, and Scotts Miracle-Gro, among others, formed with a goal to "advance social equity and racial justice and end federal cannabis prohibition.”

Additional details about the CFA are included in the news release below. 

New Coalition Launched to End Cannabis Prohibition, Bridge Across Ideological, Party Lines

WASHINGTON, April 06, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Today, the Cannabis Freedom Alliance (CFA) launched to end the prohibition, criminalization, and overregulation of cannabis in the United States. The CFA aims to do so in a manner consistent with helping all Americans achieve their full potential and limiting the number of barriers that inhibit innovation and entrepreneurship in a free and open market.

Steering Membership includes prominent national advocacy organizations Americans for Prosperity (AFP), Mission Green/The Weldon Project, the Reason Foundation, and the Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce (GACC). Weldon Anglos of Mission Green/The Weldon Project and Randal John Meyer of GACC serve as co-Coordinators for the Coalition.

Weldon Angelos stated, “Ending cannabis prohibition and incarceration is a moral imperative. For too long, cruel laws punishing non-violent cannabis offenses have destroyed the lives of individuals throughout this country — myself included. It is high time that Congress and the President right this wrong and allow those harmed by cannabis prohibition the chance to participate in the cannabis industry like the millionaires and billionaires doing so now. But we can’t do this alone. We need both sides to come together on this, which is why we launched this coalition.”

The CFA is aimed at accomplishing four core values through federal legislative reform:

  • Federal De-Scheduling and Criminal Justice Reform. Seek the complete removal of cannabis from the Schedules of the Controlled Substances Act to bring an end to cannabis criminalization, and allow innovation, industry, and research to thrive.
  • Reentry and Successful Second Chances. Seek to ensure individuals who were formerly incarcerated or current grey-market operators are given a second chance in society and have an equal ability to contribute to the cannabis market during its transition from an illicit to legal market.
  • Promoting Entrepreneurship in Free and Open Markets. Seek federal and state regulatory frameworks for cannabis which promote public safety while ensuring low barriers to entry and non-restrictive occupational and business licensing is the norm. Market rules must not allow control by crony interests or inhibit small companies and entrepreneurs through unnecessary limitations or overregulation.
  • Competitive and Reasonable Tax Rates. Seek to ensure the total tax burden — federal, state, and local combined — imposed on cannabis businesses should not raise costs so as to incentivize the continuation of illicit markets.

“For too long, the criminalization of cannabis has hurt Americans, from individuals’ unnecessary involvement with the justice system to the damage dealt to communities by the expensive and failed ‘War on Drugs,’” said Brent W. Gardner, Chief Government Affairs Officer for Americans for Prosperity. “Americans for Prosperity is excited to work alongside our partners to bring cannabis businesses into the light, replacing black and gray markets with a free and fair legal framework that improves public safety and emphasizes entrepreneurship and equal opportunity. In this context, cannabis commerce will become a way for Americans to lift themselves up, rather than a barrier holding them back.”

Reason Foundation Vice President of Policy Dr. Adrian Moore noted, “We are excited to work together on the twin goals of ending the failed prohibition of cannabis, with all the costs to lives, liberty and the economy that come with it, and ensuring that cannabis black markets are replaced with free, fair and competitive legal cannabis markets.”

GACC Board Chairman Rezwan Khan added, “GACC is excited to join together to help bring about the end of cannabis prohibition. We look forward to ensuring a vibrant and competitive legal cannabis industry that restores the harms of those adversely impacted by prohibition.”

For more information on the CFA or to join our efforts, please visit our website at cannabisfreedomalliance.org or email us at info@cannabisfreedomalliance.org.

About the Cannabis Freedom Alliance:

The Cannabis Freedom Alliance (CFA) is a coalition of advocacy and business organizations seeking to end the prohibition and criminalization of cannabis in the United States in a manner consistent with helping all Americans achieve their full potential and limiting the number of barriers that inhibit innovation and entrepreneurship in a free and open market. For more information on the CFA, please contact info@cannabisfreedomalliance.org.

About the Americans for Prosperity:

Through broad-based grassroots outreach, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is driving long-term solutions to the country’s biggest problems. AFP activists engage friends and neighbors on key issues and encourage them to take an active role in building a culture of mutual benefit, where people succeed by helping one another. AFP recruits and unites activists in 35 states behind a common goal of advancing policies that will help people improve their lives. For more information, please visit www.AmericansForProsperity.org.

About The Weldon Project/Mission Green:

Mission Green is an initiative of The Weldon Project that brings together individuals impacted by the criminal justice system and unlikely allies from all sides of the political spectrum to push for criminal justice solutions. The organization works directly with lawmakers, celebrities, advocacy groups, incarcerated individuals, and the White House on a broad range of criminal justice issues. Notably, TWP helped pass the historic, bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation called the First Step Act which was signed into law in December 2018. TWP launched the Mission Green initiative to focus exclusively on individuals incarcerated for cannabis-related offenses in the criminal justice system. The Mission Green campaign is led by people who have been directly impacted by prohibition and have lived through the issues that advocacy organizations are working to address. The people most affected by the current justice system are in a unique position to bring about transformative change. For more information, please contact Weldon Angelos at weldon@theweldonproject.org.

About the Reason Foundation:

Reason Foundation is a nonprofit think tank dedicated to advancing free minds and free markets. Reason Foundation produces respected public policy research on a variety of issues and publishes the critically acclaimed Reason magazine and its website. For more information, please contact Dr. Adrian Moore at adrian.moore@reason.org.

About the Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce:

The Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce (GACC) exists to provide policymakers and legislators with the guidance necessary to take the nascent cannabis industry from the grey market into a global provider of medical and adult-use cannabis products. GACC advocates in front of government policymakers and legislators in order to legalize and regulate the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, or use of medical and adult-use cannabis products globally. For more information, please contact Randal John Meyer at randal@globalcannabiscommerce.org.


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