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Congressional Cannabis Caucus Adds Two New Members

THE CONGRESSIONAL CANNABIS CAUCUS: (from left) Dave Joyce, Barbara Lee, Earl Blumenauer and Don Young.

On Feb. 16, 2017, a bi-partisan group of House members officially launched the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, making it the first marijuana-focused congressional member organization. There are nearly 300 issue-focused caucuses.

At the press conference announcing the new group, the four initial members—Democrats Earl Blumenauer (OR) and Jared Polis (CO) and Republicans Dana Rohrabacher (CA) and Don Young (AK) and suggested that they were ready to put up a fight should the Department of Justice ramp up enforcement of federal prohibition.

“If we have to, we’ll bump heads with the attorney general,” said Young, referring to embattled AG Jeff Sessions, who has since left the Cabinet.

Rohrabacher stressed that recreational cannabis legalization should get serious attention from Congress. So far, it’s only approved protections for state medical marijuana programs in the form of an appropriations rider, commonly known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment. Blumenauer stepped in as the co-sponsor when Sam Farr retired in January 2017.

Update: With Rohrabacher recently losing his re-election and Polis being elected governor of Colorado, two new members joined the Caucus on Jan. 9: Barbara Lee (D-CA) and David Joyce (R-OH). Joyce has replaced Rohrabacher as the Republican sponsor of the amendment. They made the following statements:

Blumenauer: “The Cannabis Caucus was the first of its kind to create a forum for elected officials to collaborate on ways to address our outdated federal marijuana laws. Congress is clearly out of step with the American people on cannabis when national support for federal marijuana legalization is at an all-time high and we saw several states move toward legalization last November. Over the last decade, I’ve worked to build understanding and consensus on the need for reform and our movement is cresting. I’m looking forward to working alongside Reps. Lee, Joyce and Young to build on the bipartisan work we’ve done to end the senseless federal prohibition on marijuana once and for all.”

Lee: “For far too long, communities of color and women have been left out of the conversation on cannabis. I’m committed to ensuring that marijuana reform goes hand-in-hand with criminal justice reform so we can repair some of the harm of the failed War on Drugs. We must also work to build an industry that is equitable and inclusive of the communities most impacted by cannabis prohibition.”

REP. EARL BLUMENAUER: “Congress is clearly out of step with the American people on cannabis when national support for federal marijuana legalization is at an all-time high and we saw several states move toward legalization last November.”

Joyce: “I’m proud to join my colleagues in leading the effort to implement responsible, commonsense cannabis policies. It’s critical that we protect the rights of the states across the country, like Ohio, that have already done so at the state level. The federal government’s interference in this arena has stifled important medical research, interfered with doctors and patients making treatment decisions and harmed state-legal businesses. I look forward to working with Congressman Blumenauer, Congressman Young and Congresswoman Lee to advance sensible cannabis reforms that will benefit our nation’s veterans, patients and businesses across the country.”

Young: “Since the initial launch of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, we’ve seen an exponential growth in interest, legislation and membership many would not have expected. The idea of States’ Rights has been a central tenet of this movement and one that I believe will ultimately carry the day. I encourage all Members to join us in this debate and explore the varying issues. It’s good to be back with Representative Blumenauer, showing that bipartisanship can still shine. I’d also like to welcome Representatives Joyce and Lee as Co-Chairs of this important Caucus and I know they’ll be as asset. They follow in the footsteps of former Representatives Rohrabacher and Polis, who helped make this all possible with their long standing advocacy and dedication and we wish them the best.”

On Jan. 10, Blumenauer said he’ll be sponsored a new bill with the number 420, known as the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act.

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