Congressional Cannabis Caucus Co-Chairs Urge Colleagues to Pass Federal Cannabis Reform Following Sweeping Ballot Measure Victories

Cannabis reform was clear winner on election day

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, sent a letter to their House colleagues urging strong support of comprehensive federal cannabis reform legislation that will be voted on this year.

The letter comes after resounding victories last week in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, South Dakota and Mississippi, where voters approved a series of cannabis ballot measures. Cannabis will now be legalized for adult use in 15 states and medical use in 36 states.

“One of the biggest winners of the 2020 election was cannabis reform. Americans in five very different states voted overwhelmingly to liberalize their cannabis policies, and it is clearer than ever that the American people are demanding a change to outdated cannabis laws,” Blumenauer and Lee wrote. “There’s no question: cannabis prohibition will end soon. We should lead the way by passing H.R.3884 – Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act.”

Yesterday, House leadership asserted that the MORE Act – landmark legislation to remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act and enact restorative justice for communities of color most impacted by the failed cannabis prohibition – would receive a vote on the House floor next month, which Blumenauer and Lee are urging their colleagues to support.

“The recent success of cannabis reform in states around the country should give us a new sense of urgency to ensure Congress catches up with the American people,” Blumenauer and Lee added. “This is a critical issue of racial justice, and the failed war on drugs has devastated communities of color, especially Black and brown communities. We can no longer ignore our duty to repair the damage that this harmful form of systemic racism has done.”

A PDF copy of the letter sent today by Blumenauer and Lee is available here.

Following is the full text:

Dear Colleague: 

One of the biggest winners of the 2020 election was cannabis reform. Americans in five very different states voted overwhelmingly to liberalize their cannabis policies and it is clearer than ever that the American people are demanding a change to outdated cannabis laws. There’s no question: cannabis prohibition will end soon. We should lead the way by passing H.R.3884 – Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act. 

Last week’s results reaffirm the strong bipartisan support to reform our failed cannabis prohibition. Even in states where Republicans easily swept elections, like in Mississippi and South Dakota, cannabis-related ballot measures passed with strong support. The success in Arizona, Montana, Mississippi, New Jersey and South Dakota means that cannabis will be legal for adult use in 15 states and medical use in 36 states. More than 109 million people will live in states where cannabis is legal for adults to use, that is more than one in three Americans. In total, almost 99% of Americans will live in states with some form of legal cannabis. We cannot ignore the will of the people any longer.  

This comes as no surprise—national support for federal cannabis legalization is at an all-time high, and trends show that support will continue to grow. Polling from the Pew Research Center shows that 67% of registered voters think “the use of cannabis should be made legal,” and the Center for American Progress found that 73% support expunging the records of those previously convicted of cannabis-related offenses. This finding is confirmed by the fact that in the last three elections, 16 of the 18 pro-cannabis reform ballot initiatives were successful—even in places like Utah and Mississippi.

This past election further demonstrated that cannabis reform is popular, non-partisan, and the just thing to do as states have also made clear their commitment to restorative justice. Montana, which ranks first in the country for having the largest racial disparities for cannabis arrests will allow an individual currently serving a sentence for a prior low-level cannabis offense to apply for resentencing or an expungement of the conviction.

The recent success of cannabis reform in states around the country should give us a new sense of urgency to ensure Congress catches up with the American people. This is a critical issue of racial justice, and the failed war on drugs has devastated communities of color, especially Black and Brown communities. We can no longer ignore our duty to repair the damage that this harmful form of systemic racism has done.

The House was poised to vote on the MORE Act, the most comprehensive federal cannabis reform legislation we’ve ever seen, back in September. As the House kept our focus on providing struggling Americans with relief from COVID-19, we received commitment from our Caucus leadership that Congress would take steps to end the failed war on drugs by voting on the MORE Act before the year was over.  

We have an opportunity and duty to correct course now. As we head into the lame-duck session, we must remember the promise we made to the American people to pass the MORE Act.

Thank you for your urgency.

Blumenauer Announces Co-Chairs of Congressional Cannabis Caucus For 116th Congress

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Representative Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), a leading advocate for cannabis policy reform and founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, today announced the launch of the Caucus for the 116th Congress. The Caucus leadership team includes Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA), who will become the first woman of color to Co-Chair the Caucus; Representative Dave Joyce (R-OH), who newly joins the leadership team; and returning Co-Chair, Representative Don Young (R-AK-At-Large).

The bipartisan Caucus provides a forum for members of the U.S. House of Representatives to discuss, learn, and work together to establish a better and more rational approach to federal cannabis policy.

“The Cannabis Caucus was the first of its kind to create a forum for elected officials to collaborate on ways to address our outdated federal marijuana laws” said Rep. Blumenauer. “Congress is clearly out of step with the American people on cannabis when national support for federal marijuana legalization is at an all-time high and we saw several states move toward legalization last November.”

“Over the last decade, I’ve worked to build understanding and consensus on the need for reform and our movement is cresting. I’m looking forward to working alongside Reps. Lee, Joyce and Young to build on the bipartisan work we’ve done to end the senseless federal prohibition on marijuana once and for all.”

“For far too long, communities of color and women have been left out of the conversation on cannabis. I am committed to ensuring that marijuana reform goes hand-in-hand with criminal justice reform so we can repair some of the harm of the failed War on Drugs. We must also work to build an industry that is equitable and inclusive of the communities most impacted by cannabis prohibition,” said Rep. Lee.

“I’m proud to join my colleagues in leading the effort to implement responsible, commonsense cannabis policies,” said Rep. Joyce. “It is critical that we protect the rights of the states across the country, like Ohio, that have already done so at the state level. The federal government’s interference in this arena has stifled important medical research, interfered with doctors and patients making treatment decisions and harmed state-legal businesses. I look forward to working with Congressman Blumenauer, Congressman Young and Congresswoman Lee to advance sensible cannabis reforms that will benefit our nation’s veterans, patients, and businesses across the country.”

“Since the initial launch of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus we’ve seen an exponential growth in interest, legislation, and membership many would not have expected”, said Rep. Young. “The idea of States’ Rights has been a central tenet of this movement and one that I believe will ultimately carry the day. I encourage all Members to join us in this debate and explore the varying issues.”

“It’s good to be back with Representative Blumenauer, showing that bipartisanship can still shine. I’d also like to welcome Representatives Joyce and Lee as Co-Chairs of this important Caucus and I know they’ll be as asset. They follow in the footsteps of former Representatives Rohrabacher and Polis, who helped make this all possible with their long standing advocacy and dedication and we wish them the best.”