On Feb. 16, 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 are 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.
“We’ll be trying to do everything we can to keep the momentum going that we’ve established in these last four to five years, as we’ve seen great progress on this issue,” noted Rohrabacher, who’s the first sitting congressman to admit to using medical marijuana while in office.
“And now with a new administration, it’s vitally important that we pay attention.”
Rohrabacher also 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.
Most importantly, the caucus will work on changing federal law on cannabis policy. “We don’t want to be a place where we rely on the goodwill of which side of the bed any attorney general wakes up on at any given day,” Polis pointe out. “That’s why we’re pursuing statutory changes.”
Each congressmen represents a state that have legalized recreational marijuana, something White House press secretary Sean Spicer recently hinted the federal government could crack down on.
Among the other cannabis issues the congressmen plan to focus on are reforming tax code 280E, which prohibits businesses in the industry from taking typical business deductions, and finding a fix to the banking problem for companies that are awash in cash. While accessing financial services is a known problem for the industry, there are reports that banks are increasingly welcoming to pot businesses.
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