The $1.7 billion medical marijuana industry made its lobbying debut in Washington on Wednesday with its official trade association launching an effort for changes in federal tax law that would put medicinal purveyors on equal footing with fully legitimate businesses.
From an underground movement to a legal business in California, 14 other states and Washington, D.C., medical marijuana is emerging as a full-fledged commercial sector with sales that might soon rival those of Viagra, advocates said.
“We simply feel that our industry should be treated like any other legitimate industry,” said Aaron Smith, director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. He spoke at a news conference kicking off the association’s first day of lobbying, which included meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Federal law does not recognize Big Pot. The sophisticated marijuana farms sprouting up in Northern California’s Emerald Triangle and elsewhere exist in a legal twilight zone, although the Justice Department has advised its prosecutors not to pursue marijuana providers operating under state law.
The lobbying campaign is aimed at amending a federal tax code provision that categorizes medical marijuana dispensary operators as drug traffickers. Such a categorization prevents them from tax deductions for marijuana-related expenses. It also makes them particularly susceptible to audits from the Internal Revenue Service.
California has 76 percent of the nation’s medical marijuana market and issued 51,550 medical marijuana cards in the past 5 years.