On Feb. 16, 2017, the Congressional Cannabis Caucus held a press conference in Washington, D.C., to address the future of cannabis policy reform in the United States.
Joined by Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Don Young, R-Alaska, and Jared Polis, D-Colo., co-chairs of the caucus, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., delivered the opening remarks.
“Today is a happy day because we are announcing a bipartisan coalition to try to do something that’s really important for our country and the well being of our people, something that’s been controversial for a long time, but we’re stepping forward together to say we’ve got to make major changes in our country’s attitude towards cannabis,” Rohrabacher said.
Following Rohrabacher, Blumenauer identified that the caucus would focus on policy reform related to medical marijuana research, safe access for veterans, cooperation from the Veterans Administration when working with veterans who live in states with legal marijuana and legal access to practical business services for state-legal marijuana businesses.
Young echoed Blumenauer’s focus on business-related reforms needed to help protect and legitimize legal marijuana businesses.
“Alaska voted to legalize it, pretty large margin, and I believe in states’ rights and the federal government should stay out of it period, but I’m also interested in the banking part of it,” Young said. “My goal is to make sure … as they do this business, they can run it as a business, get loans from banks and put the revenue back into the banks as every other business does. I think that’s crucially important to make it work correctly.”
After Young, Polis reminded the audience of how the lack of positive cannabis policy reform reverberates in every corner of America.
“From banking to housing to taxes to small businesses to jobs to agriculture, the four of us represent districts that frankly will be damaged and our constituents will be hurt by overreaching federal authority because of the discrepancy between federal and state marijuana laws,” Polis said.
Polis then offered up his state of Colorado as an example of how the implementation of cannabis policy reform benefits society.
“In Colorado, the initiative is a success. Our test case proves that allowing responsible adults to use marijuana if they choose can help provide money for classrooms rather than cartels, creates jobs rather than creates addicts, puts drug dealers out of business and boosts our economy rather than our prison population.”
While the legal cannabis industry may face an uncertain future under President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Polis offered tempered optimism.
“On the campaign trail, President Trump indicated that he would defer to states with regard to marijuana. We’re also aware of Jeff Sessions prior policy positions as a senator,” Polis said. “We’re hoping given that now he works for the president, he’ll maintain those policy commitments that were made during the campaign.”
In a joint statement from the nation’s leading cannabis and drug policy reform organizations, advocates praised the bipartisan cannabis reform effort.
“The formation of this caucus is a testament to how far our country has come on the issue of cannabis policy … . We look forward to working with caucus members to translate this growing public sentiment into sound public policy.”