Up until now, meaningful marijuana policy has been handled by state legislators. But beginning next year, the U.S. Congress will get a little more serious about doing something at the federal level.
Over the weekend, two members of Congress — one Republican and one Democrat — announced they were joining forces to create a Cannabis Caucus for the 115th Congress.
Reps. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., will focus on a national strategy for national marijuana reform.
“People who have been ambivalent about this before, all of a sudden just inherited constituents who care deeply about it,”Blumenauer told DecodeDC. “Florida just passed an initiative for medical marijuana which makes it the second largest marijuana market in the United States. All of a sudden there are lots of legislators who just had their constituents vote more strongly for marijuana than they did for them.”
Rohrabacher, who reportedly is still being considered by President-elect Donald J. Trump for Secretary of State, wants the focus to be on a durable structure for change. “There needs to be more strategy between us, those of us who are engaged in this. More of a long-term strategy,” Rohrabacher said . “We need to have a vehicle in which people on the outside will be able to work through and sort of have a team effort from the inside and the outside.”
Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., is also considered to be deeply involved in the caucus, which will begin meeting next month.
According to DecodeDC, the caucus will be made up of members of Congress who see marijuana reform as an important issue and it will focus on a bipartisan effort to pass bills.
Rohrabacher and Blumenauer have both fought vigorously for marijuana decriminalization and a state’s right to choose how to regulate the drug.
Rohrabacher, who openly says he is a medical marijuana patient for arthritis pain, introduced the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015.
Blumenauer introduced the bipartisan Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2016 and co-sponsored the Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act of 2015.
According to Blumenauer, the two biggest issues facing the cannabis industry are that companies aren’t fairly taxed because federal law won’t allow them to fully deduct their business taxes — and that cannabis businesses can’t work with banks.
“We’ve had the movement crest,” Blumenauer told DecodeDC. “Two hundred and fifty million people have access to medical marijuana, a quarter of the population has access to adult use. We’re watching an industry now where 60 percent believe marijuana should be legalized, and public opinion mirrors what happened at the ballot box.”
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