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Democratic Congressman Lays Out New Marijuana Agenda To Reflect Renewed ‘Optimism’ Amid Rescheduling Move



With the federal government moving to reschedule marijuana, a Democratic congressman has issued a new memo on cannabis reform priorities to reflect renewed “optimism for the path ahead”—laying out suggestions to advance the issue both in Congress and administratively.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), founding co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, issued the memo on Tuesday—about a week after the Justice Department confirmed that it proposed reclassifying marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

“Schedule III is not quite what we wanted—marijuana shouldn’t be scheduled at all—but it is nonetheless a revolutionary step that sends a signal about the imperative of ending the failed war on drugs,” Blumenauer said, adding that cannabis is “a winning issue.”

“It is clear the Biden-Harris Administration is listening to the unprecedented public demand for cannabis reform. President Biden has been much more engaged on the issue,” the memo says. “He pardoned thousands of individuals, initiated this long-overdue review of scheduling, and opened a new chapter for reform. The Administration must move through the regulatory process as quickly as possible to reschedule cannabis.”

The memo also lays out the key implications of rescheduling, including allowing marijuana businesses to take federal tax deductions and removing cannabis research barriers. The administrative move also represents a critical acknowledgement of the medical value of marijuana, it says.

“With the DOJ’s announcement, this updated memo reflects my optimism for the path ahead and details the work that remains,” Blumenauer said, referencing an earlier annual document he issued in January.

The congressman’s memo emphasizes that while rescheduling represents a “significant step toward ending the failed war on drugs, there is still significant work ahead for Congress.”

To that end, the memo stresses that the “work includes ending the criminalization of marijuana.” As the Congressional Research Service (CRS) said in a report last week, Blumenauer notes that a Schedule III reclassification would not legalize marijuana, and certain cannabis-related activity would continue to be criminalized under the CSA.

For the remainder of the congressional session, Blumenauer said that lawmakers should focus on advancing legislation to federally legalize cannabis, free up cannabis industry access to the banking system, prevent Justice Department interference in state markets and allow the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to make medical cannabis recommendations to patients.

The memo also makes recommendations for further administrative action, including expanding pardons and commutations for people with federal marijuana convictions, reissuing “improved” guidance on enforcement priorities, updating truck driver THC impairment testing, ending the practice of evicting people from federally subsidized housing over cannabis and more.

“Throughout the executive branch, the Biden-Harris Administration should consider the implications of marijuana prohibition and criminalization as they take steps to end discriminatory policies across branches and with every power available to them,” Blumenauer, who is retiring at the end of this Congress, said.

“There is no doubt that critical work remains,” he said. “However, we should celebrate this historic step forward, which is possible because of the tireless work my partners and I have put behind these reforms for more than 50 years. I am committed to building on this momentum to end the failed cannabis prohibition once and for all.”

Last week, the congressman similarly argued that the rescheduling decision from DEA will “open the floodgates” for additional congressional action such as passage of the bipartisan cannabis banking bill.

“It’s going to make it much easier to have other items that are queued up,” the Democratic congressman said. “With this, it’s going to be a matter of time before we get movement in the Senate—dealing with the banking issue, which is long overdue.”

“Taking it to Schedule III is, first of all a signal, that people recognize that the current scheduling process is completely wrong, flawed and unfair,” Blumenauer said. “It takes care of a major problem that we’ve faced.”

The congressman also reiterated his belief that the Justice Department would soon be reissuing marijuana enforcement discretion guidances that was rescinded under the Trump administration. He and the former DOJ official who authored the original memorandum told Marijuana Moment last week that they expect it will be expanded to account for societal changes around the issue, as well as the rescheduling push.

Meanwhile, DEA Administrator Anne Milgram told lawmakers on Tuesday that it would be “inappropriate” for her to comment on the agency’s recent marijuana rescheduling determination because the rulemaking process is “ongoing.”

The head of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) separately said that marijuana industry banking access would make the agency’s job easier, and officials “shouldn’t just sit on our hands” as the federal government moves to reschedule cannabis.

Read Blumenauer’s memo on marijuana reform priorities in light of the rescheduling decision below: 

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Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

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