As of now, there are dozens of legislative measures in favor of cannabis with many more to come. Colorado has seen drops in crime and underage use. Statistics like these have pushed more states to consider legalization. At the Cannabis State of the Union in April of this year, Dana Rohrabacher, (R-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Don Young, (R-AK), and Jared Polis, (R-CO) stood side by side with political news announced by Blumenauer:
"It's time for a formal Cannabis Caucus," he said.
A couple of decades after cannabis was ruled a Schedule I Controlled Substance, some representatives wonder what direction their states are heading. The War on Drugs overwhelmed many politicians, according to Blumenauer. As states began legalizing medical marijuana in the mid 1990s, voters began to drive their representatives toward the direction of full legalization. The power of politics is influencing the progress.
Cannabis State of the Union
During the Cannabis State of the Union, Rohrabacher described the caucus as a bipartisan coalition. This bipartisan group was developed to provide solutions to the division between federal and state government. These meetings will discuss issues referring to economic development, veteran access, and overturning past convictions, among hundreds of other issues. Most significantly, the caucus will attempt to find a way to move marijuana out of the Schedule I group. This is an attempt to ensure the federal government conducts itself with adherence to the state and local laws.
"Now, with the new administration, it's vitally important to pay attention and don't do this half-heartedly and haphazardly," Rohrabacher commented, referring to on the process of receiving support from other congressmen. While both Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Donald Trump say they would back off state regulations, the caucus wants assurance that no other attorney general would be able to rescind the decision.
Politicians involved in this caucus see that legalization should not be just about businesses and revenue, but also about addressing disparity between states that allow recreational marijuana and those that still charge people crimes. Rohrabacher used his position at The Cannabis State of the Union to acknowledge the distress.
"People are suffering. The law is wrong. We have a caucus together, a bipartisan caucus. We're going to change that situation," he said.
Cannabis Caucus Leaders
Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon
Blumenauer is a strong advocate for legalization. He and Rohrabacher co-sponsored the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment a few years ago, the only federal law standing in the way of a possible rollback of medical marijuana. At the Cannabis State of the Union, Blumenauer expressed his concern with the current events around cannabis, stating deep distress about the "gap between where the public is, what a rational policy is, and where the federal government stands."
Blumenauer has been collaborating with cannabis industry workers since 2013. This group consists of staff members in the care-giving field with a goal of finding a legal approach for their patients.
Because marijuana has been illegal on the federal level for decades, there is limited research. Though, as of recent, millions of new dollars have been allocated to the study of cannabis' medical benefits. Other cannabis research topics may include the financial impacts of legalization and adverse health effects.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Access
The group wants veterans to be able to access medical marijuana through the VA. Currently, veterans who consume marijuana will not be denied benefits and are encouraged to discuss their usage with no fear of prosecution. While they want to know a patient's medical marijuana usage for better care planning, the VA cannot:
- Prescribe products containing Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), Cannabidiol (CBD), or any other cannabinoids
- Complete paperwork/forms required for Veteran patients to participate in state-approved marijuana programs
- May not fill prescriptions for medical marijuana
- Pay for medical marijuana prescriptions from any source
Currently, businesses in the cannabis industry pay extremely high taxes in order to stay open. Not only do they pay high taxes, they must do it in cash because banks are regulated by the federal government. This causes worry regarding a cash surplus and where it should be stored.
Dana Rohrabacher, R-California
As the co-sponsor of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, Rohrabacher is not a personal supporter of marijuana legalization, however, he too believes it's up to the people to decide and not him. His position is clear: "We're going to change that situation," referring to marijuana.
In the belief that the people should decide, he also pushes the fact the there is no consistency within the states.
Jared Polis, D-Colorado
Polis' main focus is the federal government. He wants states to be "free from federal bullying." A democrat from Colorado, Polis sees the progress in his state and the momentum of other states moving forward.
His focus is on the educational and economic benefits that cannabis introduced in his state. In coordination with Rohrabacher, he would also like to draw attention to the legal status of cannabis in relation to the ongoing heroin and opioid epidemic. On the other side, he also wants to approach the business and tax regulations.
Don Young, R-Alaska
Young is Alaska's only representative in the United States House of Representatives. He is currently involved in efforts to stop the opioid problem that also plagues Alaska. Young is not a personal supporter of legalization, however, he represents his state and supports the state's right to choose, as congress' job is to "follow the people."
Leaders of the caucus have not had an official meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. However, the group is trusting President Trump's campaign stance on marijuana and his recent statement to leave it up to the states. The Cannabis State of the Union‘s Cannabis Caucus efforts still rely on the federal government conceding.