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What The Loss of Marijuana-Friendly Republicans Means For Federal Legalization

What The Loss of Marijuana-Friendly Republicans Means For Federal Legalization

Democrats reclaimed control of the House on Tuesday, in the process seizing some seats held by Republicans lawmakers who were leaders on marijuana reform on Capitol Hill. Advocates have mixed feelings about what that could mean for cannabis in the 116th Congress.

Marijuana-friendly Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Scott Taylor (R-VA), Mike Coffman (R-CO) and Jason Lewis (R-MN) lost their reelection bids, among others. And while the Democratic victors of those midterm battles are generally supportive of efforts to reform federal marijuana laws, the loss of Republicans who’ve embraced cannabis reform could complicate efforts to move the ball forward on bipartisan legislation.

Here’s how the outgoing GOP congressmen contributed to marijuana reform:

Rohrabacher—Arguably the most vocal marijuana supporter on the Republican side of the House, Rohrabacher has sponsored an amendment that prohibits the Department of Justie from using federal funds to intervene in state legal medical marijuana programs since the early 2000s. He’s also introduced standalone legislation to amend the Controlled Substances Act to exempt individuals acting in compliance with state cannabis laws.

Curbelo—The congressman is the lead sponsor of a bill meant to amend an Internal Revenue Service code that bars marijuana businesses from making legitimate business deductions or receiving tax credits. This summer, Curbelo also became the lead GOP cosponsor of a bill that directs the federal government to study the impact of state legalization efforts on things like crime and public health.

Taylor—Though he’s taken less of a leadership role on the issue than Rohrabacher or Curbelo, Taylor has cosponsored a few marijuana reform bills, including the marijuana business tax legislation and another that would effectively end the federal prohibition of cannabis. He’s also said that legal marijuana can help lift rural Virginia communities out of poverty.

Coffman—Coffman, from legalized Colorado, has cosponsored numerous marijuana-related bills over the last seven years, including one to legalize industrial hemp and another to exempt individuals acting in compliance with state marijuana laws from the CSA and also federally reschedule cannabis.

Lewis—The congressman has criticized the war on drugs, believes that states should have the right to legalize medical cannabis and has cosponsored several bills aimed at reforming federal marijuana laws.

Don Murphy, director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project and a former Republican state lawmaker from Maryland, is concerned about the loss of the GOP allies on Capitol Hill. He told Marijuana Moment that he expects House Democrats to “load up” cannabis legislation with “deal killing amendments the GOP Senate and President Trump won’t accept.”

He also said the message voters sent to pro-reform Republicans who lost on Election Day was that supporting cannabis reform alone isn’t enough to win the hearts of left-leaning reform advocates. It made it “difficult to suggest that drug policy is both good policy and good politics,” Murphy said. “Liberals will still hate you, but they’ll hate you less.”

That said, “Marijuana policy reform is still the right thing to do and is often more popular than the pols it shares the ballot with, so in that respect, it is also the right thing to do politically,” Murphy added.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who’s worked with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to promote marijuana reform and last month released a plan for Democrats to federally legalize cannabis in 2019, doesn’t think Tuesday’s losses will stop the bipartisan momentum that’s been building.

“I think we will continue to see more bipartisan progress because Republicans members of Congress, after the election results, I think are going to look for ways that they can support what their public wants and engage in bipartisan problem-solving,” Blumenauer told Marijuana Moment during a press call on Wednesday. “And we’ll give them opportunities for bipartisan problem-solving.”

“We’ve always embraced a bipartisan approach to this. I will continue to that—to reach out, to provide opportunities.”

Where Murphy, Blumenauer and others do agree, however, is that there will continue to be some Republican leadership on the issue, in spite of the fact that some of the more recognizable Republican faces of reform are leaving. Both pointed to Rep. David Joyce (R-OH), who earlier this year introduced an amendment to protect legal medical cannabis states from federal interference, as an example of someone who they expect to pick up the torch in a bigger way.

And having someone like Joyce lead the charge on marijuana from the GOP side of the aisle—as opposed to a lawmaker marred by controversy over Russia ties like Rohrabacher—could ultimately bolster reform efforts, giving Republicans a more palatable champion for cannabis legislation.

Blumenauer also said he expects new Republican faces to get behind federal cannabis reform now that anti-marijuana Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) has lost and will no longer control the House Rules Committee, where he’s repeatedly blocked votes on common sense marijuana legislation.

“I think when the House is able to have the Congress function in its role of oversight and legislation, more and more Republicans will take the opportunity to be on the side of their public,” he said.

Sessions’s loss in general represents one of the best pieces of news from the midterm elections for reform advocates, particularly for members of Congress on both sides who’ve been interested in passing legislation that would allow marijuana businesses to make valid tax deductions or extend protections against federal interference in legal medical cannabis states, for example.

It’s too early to tell how lawmakers will navigate marijuana reform after the new Congress is seated in January, but things could speed up quickly if outgoing Rohrabacher’s prediction comes true—that reform will be on the White House agenda now that the midterms are over. Blumenauer seemed to back up his colleague’s claim on the the call, telling another reporter that he’s also had “informal and formal” talks with White House officials that’s led him to a similar conclusion.

https://massroots.wpengine.com/news/marijuana-got-votes-politicians-midterms/

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

What The Loss of Marijuana-Friendly Republicans Means For Federal Legalization

GOP Congressman Visits Marijuana Dispensary With Bus Full Of Senior Citizens

GOP Congressman Visits Marijuana Dispensary With Bus Full Of Senior Citizens

A Republican congressman in the midst of an especially challenging reelection race took time on Tuesday to accompany a literal busload of elderly citizens on a visit to a marijuana store.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who is one of Congress’s leading proponents of cannabis reform, is the lead sponsor of a successful amendment that prevents the Justice Department from interfering with state medical marijuana laws.

But he might not be around on Capitol Hill next year to champion the measure’s extension if Democratic challenger Harley Rouda has his way. Several polls heading into next month’s election have shown the two running neck and neck.

But that didn’t stop the GOP incumbent from a trip to the local marijuana dispensary. Or perhaps the move was all part of the Rohrabacher campaign’s effort to remind voters of his cannabis accomplishments in Congress.

Either way, several journalists went along for the ride and documented the congressman’s weed field trip.

Earlier this week, Rohrabacher said that he’s been “talking to people inside the White House” and has received assurances that “the president intends on keeping his campaign promise” to protect state marijuana laws from federal interference.

https://massroots.wpengine.com/news/trump-plans-back-legal-medical-marijuana-midterms-gop-congressman-says/

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

GOP Congressman Visits Marijuana Dispensary With Bus Full Of Senior Citizens

Democrats And Republicans Clash Over Which Party Will Lead On Marijuana In 2019

Democrats And Republicans Clash Over Which Party Will Lead On Marijuana In 2019

Which party is going to take a leadership role in advancing marijuana reform after the midterm elections? It depends on who you ask.

On Thursday, both Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) indicated that their respective party would be backing legislation to change federal cannabis laws in the months after November’s critical election. Rohrabacher said that he’d received assurances that the White House would support reform efforts during the 116th Congress, which begins in January.

“It could be as early as spring of 2019, but definitely in the next legislative session,” he said, noting that President Donald Trump planned to keep his promise to support a bipartisan bill to protect legal states from federal interference.

Later, Blumenauer—a close colleague of the Republican congressman when it comes to cannabis reform efforts—said that Democrats would promote legislation to change cannabis laws in the first half of 2019 if his party retakes the House.

“With Democrats in control, we will be able to have the legislative process work and we’ll see more progress in a relatively short order, I think.”

“These will be some of the easiest things to do in the first six months of a new Congress because they’re supported by the public, the legislation is already teed up and ready to go,” Blumenauer said in an interview with Bloomberg. “It’s one of these areas of progress that will show we can get our act together and move forward.”

“It doesn’t have to be the top priority. It’s simpler than health care or global warming. And it’s supported by the public. I think it’s a no-brainer. I think it moves in the next six months.”

Watch the full interview here:

Blumenauer seems to be breaking somewhat from his party’s leadership. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), for example, said last month that top Democrats haven’t yet “talked about” promoting federal marijuana legislation if the party retakes the House in the midterm elections. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also suggested that the fate of federal cannabis reform would depend, in part, on the will of the president.

“I don’t know where the president is on any of this,” Pelosi said. “So any decision about how we go forward would have to reflect where we can get the result.”

Trump Plans To Back Legal Medical Marijuana After Midterms, GOP Congressman Says

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Democrats And Republicans Clash Over Which Party Will Lead On Marijuana In 2019

Trump Plans To Back Legal Medical Marijuana After Midterms, GOP Congressman Says

Trump Plans To Back Legal Medical Marijuana After Midterms, GOP Congressman Says

Marijuana reform will likely be on the Trump administration’s agenda after the midterm elections, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) said on Thursday.

In an interview with Fox Business, Rohrabacher said he’s been “talking to people inside the White House” and members of President Donald Trump’s inner circle about ending cannabis prohibition. The congressman said he’s been “reassured that the president intends on keeping his campaign promise” to protect local marijuana policies from federal interference.

Though Rohrabacher didn’t point to specific legislation that the president is reportedly interested in advancing, he said that details would likely begin to take shape after November 6.

“I would expect after the election we will sit down and we’ll start hammering out something that is specific and real.”

Trump has previously voiced support for a bipartisan bill, introduced by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), which would amend the Controlled Substances Act to protect states that legalize cannabis from federal interference. He also embraced medical cannabis during his presidential campaign, saying that he knows people who have benefited from using it.

Rohrabacher, in the new interview published Thursday, laid out a vague timeline for anticipated congressional action on marijuana reform.

“It could be as early as spring of 2019, but definitely in the next legislative session,” he said.

What remains to be seen is which party will ultimately take the lead on marijuana after the midterms. Though Democrats are generally more supportive of cannabis reform and multiple bills have been introduced to achieve that end, a top House Democrat recently conceded that the party hasn’t been actively discussing plans to pass marijuana legislation.

Asked last month whether Democrats would bring cannabis legislation to the floor if the party retakes the House in November, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) admitted “[w]e haven’t talked about that.”

And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who is expected to seek the speakership again if Democrats win control of the chamber in the midterms, indicated that the prospects for marijuana legislation would depend on support from the president.

“I don’t know where the president is on any of this,” she said. “So any decision about how we go forward would have to reflect where we can get the result.”

Based on polling, either party stands to benefit from taking on a marijuana friendly agenda. Fewer Republican voters support full legalization, compared to Democrats, but when it comes to medical cannabis, there’s sizable majority support on both sides of the aisle.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Trump Plans To Back Legal Medical Marijuana After Midterms, GOP Congressman Says

Lawmakers Request DOJ Be Investigated for Moves Against Medical Marijuana

Lawmakers Request DOJ Be Investigated for Moves Against Medical Marijuana

Two members from the House of Representatives are asking for an investigation regarding the Department of Justice’s focus on medicinal cannabis providers and patients. Sam Farr, a California Democrat, andDana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, believe the DOJ is in violation of federal law.

The two politicians created an amendment that prevents the DOJ from using its funding to target state-legal medical cannabis programs. The provision gained congressional support and became part of the federal spending bill, which President Obama signed last December. Though the annual funding bill is set to expire, lawmakers reintroduced an identical cannabis provision in June, and the House promptly passed the measure.

Despite this chain of events, the letter from representatives Farr and Rohrabacher reads:

“The Department has continued to pursue and prosecute individuals and businesses for involvement with medical marijuana in states where it is legal.”

Patrick Rodenbush, a Justice Department spokesperson, told the LA Times that the cannabis amendment prohibited the entity from “impeding the ability of states to carry out their medical marijuana laws,” and did not “impact our ability to prosecute private individuals or private entities who are violating the Controlled Substances Act.”

In response, the letter reads,

“Mr. Rodenbush’s interpretation is clearly a stretch. The implementation of state law is carried out by individuals and businesses as the state authorizes them to do. For DOJ to argue otherwise is a tortuous twisting of the text … and common sense.”

The congressmen believe that any DOJ official who claims the amendment states otherwise is disregarding the facts. Furthermore, using federal funding to prevent legally compliant patients and businesses from engaging in medicinal cannabis programs is a flagrant violation of the marijuana provision. While a Justice Department spokesperson acknowledges receiving the letter, the entity will not respond until the document is reviewed.

Earlier in 2015, Rohrabacher and Farr publicly condemned the DOJ’s attempt to shut down Harborside Health Center, a California company that is one of the largest and most respected medicinal cannabis businesses in the United States. Last year in Washington state, the Justice Department targeted a family of medicinal users who claim their 70 plants were solely meant for personal use in their rural Kettle Falls home. Both congressmen believe that the DOJ is overstepping its authoritative limitations and diverting federal funds into unauthorized areas.

Though the DOJ has reeled in its crackdown, it still targets state-legal patients and businesses. The federal government is partially to blame as it continues to equate cannabis with harmful substances such as heroin and crack cocaine. According to a CBS News poll, 86% of Americans support medicinal cannabis. Reflecting the current public opinion, 23 states allow medical use of the plant and its products, while 17 more states have legalized non-psychoactive marijuana extracts. Additionally, four states along with the District of Columbia have lifted their prohibition on recreational cannabis use. With Farr and Rohrabacher’s letter, the hope is to align policy with the public’s current perspective.

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