Pro-marijuana lawmakers form congressional cannabis caucus

Emily Gray Brosious

February 16, 2017: 11:21 AM CT

Pro-marijuana lawmakers form congressional cannabis caucus(Photo credit: David Ramos/Getty Images)

A bipartisan group of lawmakers are teaming up in Congress to protect marijuana policy gains and to push for broader reform.

The cannabis caucus is set to be officially announced during a 2 p.m. EST press conference on Thursday, Feb. 16, according to U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s (D-OR) website.

Blumenauer, along with Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO) and Don Young (R-AK), are founding members of the new caucus. All four lawmakers represent states where voters have legalized recreational marijuana for adult use.

“This is happening all across the country, and it’s going to continue,” Blumenauer, a longtime legalization advocate, told Roll Call. “The industry is growing, as is public acceptance and demand for medical marijuana.”

Eight states and the District of Columbia have now legalized marijuana for adult recreational use, and 28 states have legalized comprehensive medical cannabis programs. The drug remains illegal for all purposes at the federal level, however.

The Justice Department took a largely hands-off approach to state marijuana laws during President Obama’s administration, operating on presidential directives not to interfere with states’ implementation of voter-approved marijuana laws.

But the legal cannabis industry now faces great uncertainty as President Donald Trump settles into office with top cabinet picks like Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Vice President Mike Pence, who are both openly hostile to marijuana policy reform.

Trump has previously voiced support for state marijuana laws, but it’s not clear if his administration plans to maintain or roll back Obama-era Justice Department directives on state marijuana legalization.

Legal cannabis sales across North America hit $6.7 billion in 2016, according to ArcView Market Research. The industry has created tens of thousands of jobs and is now generating much-needed tax revenues for states like Colorado and Oregon. Legalization supporters remain hopeful that the high costs of cracking down on an industry this size may insulate it from aggressive federal interference at this point.


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Gallery source links:

Mike Pence – Leafly, On The Issues, NORML; Reince Priebus – The Denver Post; Rex Tillerson – CNN, CNN; John Kelly – CBS News, Drug Policy Alliance, Military Times; Mike Pompeo – NPR, Vote Smart; Nikki Haley – CNN, Tenth Amendment Center; Steven Mnuchin – NBC News, Senate Committee on Finance; Jeff Sessions – USA Today, Politico; Ryan Zinke – Americans for Safe Access, Vote Smart; Sonny Perdue – On The Issues; Hemp Business Journal; David Shulkin – Department of Veterans Affairs/Scribd; Tom Price – NORML; Scott Pruitt – Associated Press; Rick Perry – “The Hugh Hewitt Show”; Mick Mulvaney – NORML

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