A congressional leader on marijuana reform is marking the 50-year anniversary of his home state’s historic move to decriminalize cannabis and calling on the federal government to “catch up.”
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said in a floor speech on Friday that this week represents half a century since Oregon moved to decriminalize marijuana—an effort he helped to advance while he was serving in the state legislature.
“I was honored to be a part of that process,” the congressman said. “It’s time for the federal government to catch up.”
“We owe it to the generations of Black Americans targeted by the failed war on drugs. We owe it to our veterans, with their wounds seen and unseen. We owe it to thousands of workers and their employers who fail drug tests every day because they use state-legal cannabis weeks before. We owe it to the large and growing cannabis industry, whose employees are targets for violent robbery because we deny them bank accounts. We owe it to the American public who are not waiting for the federal government.”
Watch the congressman’s floor speech on the marijuana reform anniversary in the video below:
“We need that framework to tax and regulate cannabis,” Blumenauer concluded. “On the anniversary of Oregon’s historic step to decriminalize cannabis, it’s past time for the federal government to be a real partner—and not a roadblock—on the path forward.”
After a half century spent fighting for cannabis reform, the congressman has made abundantly clear that his patience with federal inaction has worn thin. Again this session, he’s approach the issue from a variety of angles.
When U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra told Marijuana Moment last week that he’s hoping to complete a federal cannabis scheduling review by the year’s end, Blumenauer reacted by saying there “should be a greater sense of urgency for this long overdue action.”
He separately led a letter to Becerra and Attorney General Merrick Garland in March, alongside 15 other bipartisan members of Congress, demanding transparency in the scheduling review.
Legalization might be the goal for the lawmaker, but he’s also strongly championed incremental reform this Congress. That includes being the lead Democratic cosponsor of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, to address some of the financial and public safety issues he outlined during Friday’s speech.
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He also refiled a bill in April that would amend an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) code known as 280E to allow state-legal marijuana businesses to finally take federal tax deductions that are available to companies in other industries.
“I’m absolutely convinced when we are able to fully deduct their business expenses that there actually will be more revenue collected because people will comply fully with the law,” the congressman later told Marijuana Moment while discussing the proposal.
A month earlier, Blumenauer and fellow Cannabis Caucus co-chair Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) reintroduced the Veterans Equal Access Act, which aims to provide military veterans with access to medical cannabis.
Blumenauer’s message on the floor on Friday reflected that body of work, channeling 50 years of legislative activism that he hopes will finally culminate in meaningful reform this Congress.
Photo courtesy of Max Pixel.