“Having fought this battle for decades I am pleased that the House of Representatives has done its job and set the table for success in the Senate and ultimately for the American people.”
By Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
After working on cannabis reform for decades, we hit another critical threshold: Congress passed both the comprehensive MORE Act, which is the gold standard in cannabis reform, and my Medical Marijuana Research Act.
Comprehensive reform also passed in the last Congress, but it had no chance in the Senate. Reform under Mitch McConnell‘s Republican control was doomed to fail. This year we send the legislation to a Senate where it has a real chance of sparking action. Currently the Senate is led by Chuck Schumer who, along with Cory Booker and Ron Wyden, is committed to ending the failed war on drugs.
Make no mistake. The reason we are at this moment and poised to end the tragic, unfair and misguided prohibition on cannabis is because the people got there first. Thirty-eight states have enacted medical marijuana and 18 states have determined that adult use should be legal. In total, 98 percent of the population has access to some form of legalized cannabis because, at the state level, the fact that over two-thirds of the public favor full legalization matters. While the federal government isn’t there yet, that too is changing.
The changed reality is on most vivid display in the House, where 321 bipartisan supporters voted for the SAFE Banking Act, which would finally grant state-legal cannabis programs access to banking services. This has passed the House in one form or another on six occasions. The industry’s access to banking will be a huge step towards protecting them from being a target of robbery from coast to coast because people recognize they are sitting on stacks of unbanked cash. This will also be a huge step for struggling dispensaries run by people of color, women or those in low-income communities who can’t afford the extra cost of security or the cost of losing their cash and product on a routine basis.
Most exciting is the realization by more lawmakers that the failed war on drugs, which has largely been waged against people of color and low-income neighborhoods, needs to be replaced with equitable policies that benefit the communities that have paid the price for this heavy handed and failed prohibition.
The Senate can put these pieces together: banking, comprehensive reform and research.
Research should be the easiest lift, having passed both chambers and providing the key to preventing impaired people in the workplace. Currently we don’t have a good test for impairment. Countless people every week fail drug tests when they are not impaired, but we don’t have a test to prove it. One of the simplest and most direct impacts of ending the federal government’s stranglehold on research is to finally have a test that doesn’t fail workers and employers. This will enable us to fill critical jobs in the supply chain.
My research bill will end the practice of outsourcing our research programs to Israel, the United Kingdom or Canada. It will allow America to benefit finally from a meaningful research program without federal interference.
Having fought this battle for decades I am pleased that the House of Representatives has done its job and set the table for success in the Senate and ultimately for the American people.
Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) is Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus and senior member of the Ways and Means Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Image element courtesy of Tim Evanson.