On February 17, 2017 four Congressmen announced a bipartisan “Congressional Cannabis Caucus”. Republican representatives Don Young (AK) and Dana Rohrbacher (CA) joined democrats Earl Blumeanauer (OR) and Jared Polis (CO) as co-chairs of the new caucus. In a press conference, they each outlined the importance of the caucus to their individual states and to the country. Representative Rohrbacher started by outlining the changes to the country’s outlook on marijuana, as 44 states now have laws permitting marijuana at varying levels. He noted the economic benefits and the importance of continuing to make progress on this issue. Representative Blumeanauer outlined four critical areas that need to be addressed 1. Not allowing the Federal government to prevent marijuana research; 2. Gaining access to marijuana for veterans, (VA hospitals are not allowed to prescribe medical marijuana); 3. Removing IRS code 280E which prohibits marijuana businesses from deducting business expenses on their federal tax returns; and 4. Ending the banking prohibition.
Representative Don Young of Alaska further explained the impact of the banking prohibition. (Marijuana businesses have difficulty getting bank accounts, potentially making it an all cash business.) When there is a great amount of surplus cash, Rep. Young has seen it “cause lots of sideline problems”. He wants to ensure these businesses are able to be run as businesses. Marijuana businesses should be able to utilize banks for loans and depositing cash. However, Representative Young’s primary interest in this caucus comes from his belief in state’s rights. During Q&A Mr. Young pointed out the hypocrisy of a conservative stance against legalization, “you can’t be a conservative and say we can pick and choose, you have to be for state’s rights or against state’s rights…” Alaska voters “voted to legalize it…pretty large margin” and Mr. Young is a representative of those people.
Finally, Representative Polis stated he has and plans again this year to introduce the Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol Act. The Act will remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and allow states who chose to, to regulate marijuana free from federal overreach. Rep. Polis outlines the success of the regulation of marijuana in Colorado. He stated that “underage use is down; crime is down and over $100 million in tax revenues have come in”. The Colorado model is working. Rep. Polis believes the next challenge is to take that model and the models in other states to allow all states to follow it, if they choose.
What does this mean?
Even with the new administration, the marijuana initiative momentum is continuing. There is now a bipartisan formal coalition in the House of Representatives dedicated to making changes to the cannabis industry. With the passage of marijuana laws in eight states this past November, more representative have become involved in the industry. (21% of the house represents a state that has passed adult-use recreational marijuana). This coalition is a voice in Washington to show why reform is important and how to make policies work for the country. The bipartisan goal is to allow adults residing in legalized marijuana states, who chose to use marijuana, to be able to without threat or interference by the Federal government.
Please see the Congressional Cannabis Caucus press conference for further details and check back for reviews and updates of the proposed acts and bills referenced in this post. The firm will continue to monitor this Caucus as well as other federal government updates on Cannabis.