Pot lobbying group National Cannabis Industry Assoc. first of its kind, stacked with CO players

First there was Big Tobacco and Big Pharma. Now it's Big Pot's turn to flex its muscles.

That's the idea behind the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), reportedly the first national trade group for the cannabis industry -- and one that's packed with familiar Colorado names.

The lobbying group launched last week at the heels of Arizona becoming the fifteenth state to legalize MMJ -- and quickly garnered national media attention.

"The ever-expanding list of state-sanctioned medical cannabis providers and ancillary businesses have easily become a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States, generating thousands of good jobs and paying tens -- if not hundreds -- of millions in taxes," said NCIA executive director Aaron Smith in a release. "These businesses have clearly earned the right to strong representation on the national stage and recognition as a true force for economic growth."

And apparently Colorado in particular has earned the right to strong representation. The lobbying group's board of directors includes big Colorado MMJ players such as Cheryl Brown of the Medical Marijuana Business Alliance, Wanda James of Simply Pure Medicinal Edibles, Jill Lamoureux of Colorado Dispensary Services, Brian Vincente of Sensible Colorado, Bob Winnicki of Full Spectrum Labs and J.B. Woods of Greenpoint Insurance. According to Smith, a third of the board's twenty directors are from Colorado, another third are from California, and the rest are from other MMJ-friendly states.

Together, the lobbying group hopes to leverage the growing power of the national marijuana industry to help shape decisions in Washington, D.C. "Our primary goal is to end prohibition on a federal level," executive director Aaron Smith told the LA Weekly, a sister paper of Westword.

First up for the group? Opposing Michele Leonhart, nominated to head the DEA, since she's promised to take a hard-line approach to federal cannabis prohibitions, even in states like Colorado were medical marijuana has been legalized. As Smith put it to the LA Weekly, "A top priority is for the federal government to stop kicking in the doors of these legitimate businesses operating in compliance of state law."

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana registry delays no more? Health dept. says patients get IDs in 35 days."

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner