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.
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 pointed out. “That’s why we’re pursuing statutory changes.”
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.
On Jan. 10, Blumenauer said he’ll be sponsored a new bill with the numbers 420 in it, known as the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act.
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