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More lobbyists pushing for the legalization of marijuana

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Updated: 6/05/2013 3:29 pm
(NBC News) More than 30 marijuana business leaders from around the country were on Capitol Hill Wednesday asking lawmakers to make it easier for them to do business.

They say conflicts between state and federal laws are putting them in financial and legal jeopardy.

Sean Luse flew cross-country to ask lawmakers for help.

He runs a medical marijuana dispensary in northern California, and while the state considers it legal the federal government does not.

Luse says the conflict keeps him from benefiting from small business tax breaks and even opening a bank account.

"It's a maddening experience, it's just very difficult," he says.

Adding to Luse's legal worries, federal prosecutors are threatening to shut him down.

Luse was joined by about three dozen other cannabis industry leaders, going door to door around the capitol campaigning for the growing industry.

19 states including the District of Columbia have legalized the drug for medical use.

Voters in Washington and Colorado have also approved recreational use.

Now several federal lawmakers are proposing changes allowing the state-legal businesses to take advantage of federal tax breaks and operate without the fear of a federal shut down.

There is opposition, however.

Arthur Dean represents an organization focused on creating drug-free communities.

He's says lawmakers are heading in the wrong direction by supporting these businesses.

"I think that we would be better off as society if they did not exist," Dean says.

He worries further legitimizing the cannabis industry will hurt society by encouraging crime and other risky behavior.

A separate study by the American Civil Liberties Union found that states spent more than $3-billion enforcing marijuana laws in just one year.

It also found these arrests more often impacted the African American community.

-- Danielle Leigh, NBC News, reports

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