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Democratic Congressional Candidate Attacks GOP Incumbent’s Marijuana Reform Advocacy As Out Of Touch



A Democratic congressional candidate in Ohio is criticizing the pro-reform Republican incumbent over his scheduled participation in a marijuana conference next month—even though the challenger himself supports cannabis legalization.

Matt Kilboy, who is running to unseat Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH), suggested in a tweet on Saturday that his opponent’s planned involvement in the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference shows that out of touch with voters in his district.

“If you elect me as your next Congressman, I commit to working for you, which will not include being the keynote speaker at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference,” the candidate wrote. “My opponent doesn’t seem to have the pulse of what is hurting us in northeast Ohio.”

It would be one thing if Kilboy opposed marijuana reform and levied the attack, but he’s on the record backing federal cannabis legalization and expunging prior convictions. He’s said that marijuana should be treated like alcohol and taxed to create new “revenue at the state and federal levels.”

Presumably, generating tax revenue and keeping people out of prison for non-violent cannabis offenses would be relevant policies that matter to Ohio voters. What’s more, Kilboy’s criticism seems to ignore the fact that a supermajority of Democrats support legalization and would be encouraged to see a GOP congressman work to enact bipartisan reform.

Democratic Rep. Troy Carter of Louisiana is also scheduled to speak at the Benzinga cannabis event alongside Joyce.

It’s not clear why Kilboy deems Joyce’s speaking at a conference about an issue that he himself supports to be worthy of attack. Marijuana Moment reached out to his campaign for comment, but a representative did not respond by the time of publication.

Democrats might generally be associated with a more consistent pro-legalization platform, but that hasn’t stopped certain members of the party from taking contrarian positions against reform friendly opponents before.

In 2018, for example, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee shared an article attacking then-Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) over his “cult-like fixation on marijuana” and said the congressman’s efforts on the issue should be part of the reason that people vote to elect his opponent.

It is also worth noting that the leader of the Democratic Party, President Joe Biden, continues to oppose marijuana legalization despite backing a number of incremental reforms during his election campaign that he has not yet followed through on.

For his part, Joyce, a co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, has certainly embraced his role as a GOP voice of pragmatic, bipartisan marijuana reform on Capitol Hill.

While he voted against a bill to federally legalize marijuana that passed the House in April, he took issue with specific provisions of the proposal, not the overall idea of ending prohibition. Joyce has stressed the need to find a passable compromise that stands a shot of moving through the Senate with the steep 60-vote threshold.

Accordingly, the congressman has been involved in high-level talks with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) about developing a bipartisan package of incremental marijuana reforms that’s expected to contain measures to safeguard banks that work with state-legal cannabis businesses and facilitate expungements, for example.

And he’s introduced several pieces of modest cannabis legislation this year that could be part of those conversations around the so-called “SAFE Banking Plus” bill.

For instance, one bipartisan measure he filed in April would direct the attorney general to create a commission charged with making recommendations on a regulatory system for marijuana that models what’s currently in place for alcohol.

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,500 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

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Another more recent measure Joyce is backing would set a federal cannabis research agenda and create a designation for universities to carry out marijuana studies with federal grant money.

Joyce and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) are also sponsoring the Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act, which would incentivize states and local governments to expunge cannabis records in their jurisdictions.

That last bill is reportedly being discussed as a key component of the in-the-works marijuana omnibus.

In any case, the proposals that Joyce has put forward seem to closely align with Kilboy’s own position on the issue, which earned the Democrat a B+ rating from NORML and raises questions about his contention with the congressman’s participation in the upcoming conference.

There are few details about the content of what Joyce will discuss at the Benzinga event, but the panel he’s set to speak at will focus on key pieces of congressional marijuana reform legislation and how social equity intersects with the proposals.

Joyce also spoke at an earlier Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in April, where he discussed how his interest in states’ rights and understanding of the medical potential of cannabis led him to advocate for reform on Capitol Hill.

He had just gone through a knee surgery at the time and said that he looked forward to the day when a person could “leave a doctor’s office or hospital” and they’re prescribed cannabis instead of addictive opioid painkiller “that they’re willing to give you as you walk out that door with unlimited refills.”

For what it’s worth, voters in dozens of cities across Ohio have approved local marijuana decriminalization initiatives in recent years, and another round of jurisdictions will see the issue on the ballot this November.

An effort to put adult-use legalization on the statewide ballot in Ohio fizzled out this year, but the campaign did secure a procedural legal win that will allow them to hit the ground running for a planned 2023 reform initiative.

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