Weedmaps, the online marijuana directory under scrutiny from California regulators, has emerged as a major industry player in state politics based on recent campaign and lobbying records.
Over the first three months of the year, the Orange County-based company spent $90,000 lobbying the Legislature, the governor’s office and five agencies responsible for overseeing California’s nascent marijuana market, according to filings with the Secretary of State’s office.
Weedmaps spent another $67,100 on political contributions to the California Democratic Party and 10 state lawmakers between February and April 25, the records show. The donations included $25,000 to state Democrats shortly before their convention in San Diego as well as $10,000 each to the ballot campaign accounts of Assembly Budget Committee chairman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, and Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, who chairs the Governmental Organizational Committee. Both committees vet bills and policies affecting Weedmaps and other marijuana companies.
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The company’s political activity coincides with a busy political season as lawmakers and regulators try to shape permanent rules for the medical and recreational cannabis industries. The advocacy also follows a February warning from the Bureau of Cannabis Control—in the form of a cease-and-desist letter—to stop running ads from operators not licensed by the state to do business in California.
Weedmaps executives, including president and general counsel Chris Beals, fired back with their own letter, saying that, while they were willing to work with regulators, the state has no authority to sanction them. A Bureau of Cannabis Control spokesman said Tuesday that there were no new developments to report in the dispute with the company. A Weedmaps spokesman did not return a message seeking comment.
In the Legislature, Weedmaps’ recent focus has primarily been on bills about marijuana delivery and advertising.
One bill, by Weedmaps critic Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, would have levied $10,000 civil penalties on operators who use fake license numbers in advertising after a 48-hour warning to stop. AB 2866 was approved on a bipartisan vote in the Business and Professions Committee before dying in late April without a hearing in the Public Safety Committee. Weedmaps was not registered as a formal opponent of the bill, although the company’s filings noted that it was lobbying on the bill.
Here are some other take-aways from the recent campaign and lobbying filings:
➤➤ The California Cannabis Industry Association’s political action committee, Cannabis Action, spent more than $27,000 in the first quarter, with $10,000 going to four lawmakers. The industry group reported no lobbying payments during the first three months of the year.
➤➤ Marijuana delivery has shaped up as a hot topic for the industry. Eaze Solutions Inc., the delivery app, spent just over $74,000 on lobbying in the first quarter. The California Cannabis Delivery Association spent $18,000 and delivery service We Drop Co. paid $12,000 to lobby shops over the same three months. All eyes are on SB 1302, which would bar cities and counties from enacting ordinances that prohibit licensed companies from delivering marijuana to local residents. The bill goes to a policy committee hearing Wednesday.
➤➤ The California Native American Cannabis Association spent $39,500 on lobbying early this year. The group is working on legislation to allow tribes to grow and sell legal marijuana without affecting their sovereign rights.
California Strategies & Advocacy and The Quintana Cruz Company remain two of the largest contract lobby shops for marijuana businesses and trade groups.