Powerful Lobbyists Pushing to Place Cannabis in Convenience Stores Once Federally Legal
“Let someone else do all the heavy lifting to get cannabis legalized and then we’ll ‘move the weight’.”
That’s essentially the latest message being conveyed by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) and while you may be picturing a bunch of creepy, sweaty, dudes colluding to corner the market on Twinkie pricing, they are actually a very influential lobbying group at all levels of government.
If, as a cannabis advocate, you cannot recall seeing NACS reps setting up booths at rallies or pro-cannabis events that’s because they don’t support legalization, per se, but nor do they oppose it either. With a vast majority of the stores under their umbrella already dabbling in the lucrative sales of hemp-derived CBD products they and NACS have gotten a taste of the green economy and they want more… whenever it happens to become legal.
When we say “legal”, we mean federally legal. Some reporters swear that monumental day is merely months away and will be a last resort for Republicans on the ropes looking for some positive press going into the 2020 elections. The more cynical among us see how the Feds are bungling something as simple as hemp legalization and are left holding little hope for any form of expedited cannabis reform.
The sad fact is, despite record high national public support for full scale cannabis legalization, most lawmakers are only influenced by powerful lobbying groups like NACS and so their silence equates to apathy, and in politics apathy is usually a tacit vote against your own interests.
In other words, they want in on the potential windfall of profits to be had if cannabis becomes legal coast to coast, but are too reluctant to help make it happen. Instead, they are staying well away from the frontlines of the battle, ready to swoop in and claim victory when the time is safe and right. "We've got years of experience checking IDs for alcohol and tobacco already. This is just another product along those lines,” says Jeff Lenard, VP of Strategic Industry Initiatives at the NACS.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because it is the same line of blunt logic that we heard come from New York bodega owners earlier this year as lawmakers in the Empire State mulled over potential recreational legalization.
The playbook looks exactly the same.
66% of Americans want legal weed. 65% of New Yorkers want legal weed.
The NASC wants in on the retail action once weed is legal nationwide, but doesn’t feel the need to advocate for that outcome. NY bodega owners want in on the retail action once weed is legal statewide, but don’t feel the need to advocate for that outcome.
As a result both New York state and the United States of America continue to limp toward eventual legalization rather than fully embracing and supporting it.
For decades, stoners sat around formulating half-baked conspiracies about weed someday being sold in the local 7-11 and it seems that we are not too far off from that day becoming a reality. The old school cannabis connoisseurs may thumb their nose at the idea of buying Skittlez with their Skittles, but let’s keep it real, those folks aren’t even going to cannabis dispensaries for their bud and are not a very large demographic when you look at the cannabis market overall and where it is going. Most people will appreciate the convenience of scoring some weed on the same receipt as their gas tank fill up, a pack of Hi-Chews, and a cold drink.
This is one of the many, many wrinkles that will come along with federal cannabis reform – how to protect and preserve the fragile state-level markets that have leveraged themselves to the hilt to survive up to that point. In a state like California where a legal, licensed dispensary owner has likely laid out hundreds of thousands of dollars to get permitted and remain compliant, should mainstream markets be allowed to just waltz right in and begin competing without the burden of such regulation?
When federal cannabis legalization does hit, the small-scale dispensary model that many of us are used to will all but vanish immediately. Sure, there will be some “craft” type businesses (think microbrew tasting rooms) that cater to the connoisseur, but the reality is that weed will be found at Walmart before we know it. In fact, pro-pot presidential candidate Kirstin Gillibrand recently predicted as much, saying, “Yes, cannabis products could end up behind the counter at Walmart with the cigarettes.”
What about you? Would you be down to re-up your stash at a 7-11?
What’s a bigger gamble, gas station pizza or a gas station pre-roll?