Montana adult-use cannabis legalization creeps closer to the November 3rd election where state residents will vote on two separate constitutional amendments. First I 190 which creates a system of legal cannabis access for adult use. The other amendment CI 118 establishes an age limit for adult use cannabis access to 21+.
While consumers might consider low population Montana to be of little importance, dark money interests are spending significant cash on issue based political donations ahead of the November 3rd election. Four states vote on cannabis legalization for adult use including Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota. Mississippi and South Dakota will also vote on cannabis access for medical use.
Two major cannabis legalization supporters have been identified as key contributors to a national super PAC called New Approach, which has raised around $7 million for New Approach Montana and has historically supported national legalization efforts in the past including Nevada, California, and Florida. One of the largest contributors to New Approach Montana is Dr. Bronners soap.
Montana is the 9th least populated state with about one million people. This represents a relatively weak cannabis market compared to other states like Arizona, and New Jersey, which both rank in the top 15 most populated states in the country. The big difference between Montana and other states like Arizona and New Jersey is the cost of land, sparse population, and little available infrastructure.
The land in Montana is far less expensive than most states which could explain a long term strategy to dominate the national and international cannabis markets by betting heavily on interstate commerce. Montana has very little infrastructure which makes finding large parcels of usable land much easier than a state like New Jersey where it is very difficult to find hundreds of acres in the same location available for sale.
Existing Montana operators and national MSO’s are likely looking at states like Montana as a potential hub for large scale regional or even nationwide cultivation in the long term. This might not be the ideal production environment for smokable flowers but it could be the perfect production cost model for industrial scale manufacturing.
Why Dr. Bronners?
Surprisingly, Dr. Bronners soap has a two decade long legacy with the cannabis industry. According to the about page history of the Dr. Bronners brand from 2001 till 2004 the firm funded and helped coordinate a hemp industry battle to defeat DEA regulations on hemp. In 2010, David Bronner was arrested outside DEA HQ for planting hemp seeds and again for harvesting hemp plants in a cage in front of the white house. In September 2013, Dr. Bronners staff celebrated with farmer Ryan Loflin as he harvested the first American commercial hemp crop in over 60 years.
In addition to public criticism of cannabis prohibition from CEO David Bronner, there are additional reasons why a company like Dr. Bronner would want to legalize hemp, and additionally, adult-use cannabis.
Dr. Bronner products are all organic and fair trade, this business model fits perfectly with hemp legalization as it could become a key ingredient in existing or future products. In addition to business strategy from a production standpoint, the soap manufacturer could attempt to move into a segment of the legal industry and sees Montana as a possible factory location or a location for hemp/cannabis cultivation. Cosmetic products are one of the many new lines of products coming to market from hemp and cannabis.
Who is behind the Political Action in Montana?
Montana could become the future home state to multiple corporate campuses for the cannabis industry. In terms of cheap land Montana might be the signal least expensive state that has pushed for legal cannabis access for adult use. The list of possible donors is nearly endless given the history of cannabis related political donations at New Approach and similar political organizations.
Remember New Approach has supported major states medical and adult use initiatives in past election cycles. The major industry donors in each state look very different. From Scotts Miracle Grow betting on the garden state, to major MSOs like Curaleaf push major dollars in Arizona. It is not 100% clear who is behind these major contributions at New Approach Montana.
New Approach Montana raised about 7 Million dollars. The majority of this money came from The North Fund and New Approach. The North Fund is a nonprofit organization based in DC that has donated to political causes including cannabis legalization as well many other initiatives. New Approach is run by Dr. Graham A Boyd who is an attorney and consultant specializing in “the political efforts to reform drug laws.” Since 2014, Dr. Boyd and New Approach have supported cannabis legalization efforts in Oregon, Massachusetts, Maine, California, Arkansas, Michigan, Florida, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Mississippi. Dr. Boyd is also the current political director at Dr. Bronners.
There are no real answers, but many more questions. New Approach Montana has been able to raise nearly $7 million dollars and the majority of the funds are completely hidden from filings through The North Fund.
What do you think is causing the dark money group The North Fund and Dr. Bonners soap to push big donations towards Montana versus other states? Is it all about the low cost land? Is it the ideal location for product manufacturing at a nationwide scale? Are there other possible businesses like beverage or food manufacturers looking to build a massive factory and cultivation? Who are the next big companies that will look towards cannabis legalization as a massive business opportunity?
Ambarian, Jonathon. “Public Lands Groups Back Montana Marijuana Initiatives; Update on Campaign Fundraising.” KXLH, KXLH, 6 Oct. 2020, www.kxlh.com/news/public-lands-groups-back-montana-marijuana-initiatives-update-on-campaign-fundraising?fbclid=IwAR0SrpjUhDP2zDdGdMjXaRBg7JrmR0zSuZIOyIXCMqdKSPcDtCh1HTW0v2M.
Ballotpedia. “New Approach PAC.” Ballotpedia, 2020, ballotpedia.org/New_Approach_PAC.
Bronner, Dr. “The Dr. Bronner's Story.” Dr. Bronner's, 11 Nov. 2020, www.drbronner.com/about/ourselves/the-dr-bronners-story/.
Levenson, Max S, and Bruce Barcott. “Who Are 2020's Top Marijuana Legalization Campaign Donors? We've Got All the Data.” Leafly, 27 Oct. 2020, www.leafly.com/news/politics/who-are-2020s-top-marijuana-legalization-campaign-donors-weve-got-all-the-data.
US States - Ranked by Population 2020, worldpopulationreview.com/states.
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