The marijuana industry in Colorado has grown quickly into a potent lobbying force at the Colorado Capitol.

Marijuana businesses, law firms, consultants and trade organizations spent at least $720,000 on lobbyists during the 2018 legislative session that ran through May 9, according to an analysis by The Gazette.

That was more than oil and gas ($530,000). It was more than grocery and liquor interests combined ($560,000).

The sheer number of marijuana-related bills partly accounts for the big spending. Legislators and lobbyists tackled more than 30 affecting the marijuana and hemp industries.

In addition, a diverse group of more than 20 marijuana-related businesses jumped into the fray. Stores, growers, delivery services, hemp farmers and law firms all used lobbyists to support, oppose or monitor bills.

At times, law enforcement officials felt badly outgunned at the Capitol.

“You can’t go down there and not know they have a small army of lobbyists,” said Chris Johnson, executive director of County Sheriffs of Colorado. “Our little piddly budget can’t compare to them.”

Several of Colorado’s top marijuana lobbyists did not respond to interview requests.

Cindy Sovine, by contrast, passionately praised the efforts she and others made to treat marijuana more like other legal products.

“I’m actually kind of thrilled to see there are a lot of lobbyists at the table right now,” she said. “We are representing businesses that are trying to run a business. Marijuana is the single most heavily regulated industry in the world. More than alcohol. More than oil and gas. Far more than any other substance in commerce today.”

Sovine traces her own involvement with the marijuana business to her father’s battle with cancer. He had reached the final stages of a fatal lymphatic cancer when her mother made a pot of tea from

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