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Congressman Delivers ‘Angry’ Floor Speech About Stalled Federal Marijuana Reform, But Says It’s ‘Not Too Late’ To Act



It’s “not too late” for the current Congress to pass sensible marijuana reform legislation and end the “insane” prohibitionist policies of the war on drugs, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) says.

In an impassioned speech on the House floor on Thursday, the founding member of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus said he is both “sad” and “angry” over the continued federal inaction on marijuana reform, arguing that it’s “time for Congress to stop making this problem worse.”

“I’ve been working for 50 years leading the effort to end the failed, unfair, cynical, dangerous war on drugs that targeted Black people, that discouraged the illegal use of a therapeutic good—something that could have enriched our economy but instead criminalized behavior,” he said.

Blumenauer, who is retiring at the end of this year but still plans to be involved in advancing the issue, said members have seen stories about the potential harms of cannabis for vulnerable populations—but that’s precisely why they should support a legal regulatory framework to mitigate risks.

“We don’t have a system that regulates it, that taxes it, that keeps it out of the hands of children,” he said. “No neighborhood drug dealer looks for identification, and they’re perfectly happy to sell kids other more dangerous and potent drugs. We don’t have to do this.”

The congressman, who is also sponsoring a newly reintroduced resolution alongside Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) promoting equity in state cannabis markets, pointed out that the House under Democratic control has previously passed comprehensive legalization legislation, as well as proposals to address the unique financial challenges of the marijuana industry. But none of those have yet been enacted into law.

“No wonder they can’t compete with the black market,” he said. “We have a situation now where the state-legal cannabis companies have to pay their taxes with shopping bags full of $20 bills because we still deny them access to banking services. That’s not just unfair, it’s insane.”

“It promotes money laundering, and it inhibits the opportunity of enterprises that are legal now for most of Americans for either medical or adult use,” Blumenauer said. “It’s time that the federal government got its act together and stop making these problems worse.”

While he expressed frustration over the lack of meaningful action in Congress, he noted progress on administrative reform, with President Joe Biden’s recently expanded pardons for people who’ve committed federal cannabis possession offenses and an ongoing review into marijuana that could result in a reclassification from Schedule I to Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

Doing so would “make it easier to do the research and it would, overnight, end the unfair taxing situation,” the congressman said. “They would be able to deduct their business expenses. How novel. It’s time for Congress to stop making this problem worse.”

“The federal government created the situation with the failed war on drugs—unfair to millions of Americans—and denied an opportunity for something that the American public has demonstrated time after time they want to happen by their state votes legalizing it,” Blumenauer said. “It’s not too late for this Congress to take the legislation that we have in the process to solve this problem, to be fair, end the failed war on drugs, be able to allow state-legal businesses to not be at a disadvantage to the cartels and the cheaters and get this right after 50 years.”

“It’s time to finally end the failed war on drugs and be fair to the American people,” he concluded.

Overall, the floor speech mirrored the sentiment that Blumenauer expressed in a yearly cannabis memo to colleagues that asserted the stage is set for another “productive year” in federal marijuana reform—with lawmakers positioned to leverage “tremendous bipartisan investments” from 2023, while pushing the Biden administration to move further on the issue ahead of this year’s election.

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Photo courtesy of the House of Representatives.

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