Blumenauer Calls On Supreme Court To Review Historic Appeal Challenging The Constitutionality Of Federal Criminalization Of Cannabis

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, called upon the U.S. Supreme Court to review and proceed with hearing Washington v. Barr, the most significant and potentially consequential cannabis-related lawsuit ever to be filed.

The Court will consider the plaintiffs’ appeal at a conference on Friday, October 9, and if the Court accepts the appeal for consideration, it could pave the way to federal legalization of cannabis for the first time since 1937, providing relief to millions of Americans who treat with medical marijuana to maintain their health and lives. If the Court were to decline to hear the appeal, the case would be over for good, resigning another generation of medical marijuana patients and the state-legal cannabis industry – which has invested billions in the state-legal market – to further legal uncertainty.

“The fact that nearly 94 percent of Americans support legalizing medical cannabis and yet it remains illegal at the federal level is a national disgrace,” said Blumenauer. “Furthermore, the laws and subsequent court decisions on cannabis are a mangled patchwork of contradictions. This case is an important opportunity to fix our failed national cannabis laws.”

In July 2020, the plaintiffs in Washington v. Barr filed their appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, challenging the constitutionality of the federal criminalization of medical marijuana. The case was filed on behalf of five plaintiffs, including former NFL player Marvin Washington, Iraq War Veteran Jose Belen, 15-year-old Alexis Bortell, nine-year-old Jagger Cotte and the Cannabis Cultural Association.

As acknowledged by the District Court in this case, Alexis, Jagger and Specialist Belen are patients whose lives have been saved by medical cannabis. As reflected in the Complaint, Marvin Washington is a cannabis entrepreneur whose business would otherwise be eligible for federal funding through the Minority Business Enterprise program, but for his participation in the cannabis industry. The Cannabis Cultural Association seeks economic parity and social justice for persons of color who have been unfairly singled out for prosecution under the Controlled Substances Act and unjustly excluded economically from the state-legal cannabis industry.

Blumenauer along with seven federal lawmakers submitted an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff’s appeal. The case also has amicus brief support from 19 advocacy groups, including the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the International Cannabis Bar Association, National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), Last Prisoner Project, Minority Cannabis Business Association, and Americans For Safe Access.

Despite its legalization by 38 U.S. states and territories, cannabis is illegal at the federal level, creating insurmountable problems for patients around the country. Patients have lost their jobs, been expelled from colleges, and lost their professional licenses, even if state-legal jurisdictions, due to cannabis stigmatization wrought by federal prohibition.

While cannabis is also on the ballot in five states that will be voting on some form of cannabis legalization in November, adoption of legalization electorally on the state level will not solve the problems associated with federal prohibition. Rather, it would merely reinforce the absurdity of marijuana’s classification under Schedule I.

To read the full amicus brief filed on behalf of Blumenauer and his Congressional colleagues, click here.

House Approves Blumenauer Amendment To Protect Cannabis Programs

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  As national support for federal marijuana legalization continues to climb, the U.S. House of Representatives today approved important legislation to protect state, territory, and tribal cannabis programs from federal interference.

The amendment, introduced by U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-CO), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and Barbara Lee (D-CA), was approved 254–163 and would ensure legal cannabis programs in Oregon and dozens of other states, territories, and tribal lands are protected from Department of Justice intervention.

“The American people are demanding a change to our outdated cannabis laws and I am glad to see my colleagues heeding their calls,” Blumenauer, founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said. “As we work to ultimately end the senseless prohibition of cannabis and the failed war on drugs, these amendments will help ensure the protection of legal state, territory and tribal cannabis programs.”

“For far too long, our federal cannabis policies have been rooted in our discriminatory past and have continued inflicting harm on communities of color. As the public’s views toward cannabis have evolved, Congress has a responsibility to ensure that our policies follow suit and move toward restorative justice,” Lee said. “I’m proud to have worked alongside Reps. Blumenauer, McClintock, and Holmes Norton on this crucial amendment to protect the progress states, tribes, and territories have made toward ending the discriminatory war on drugs.”

A copy of the amendment approved Thursday by the House can be found here.

And here’s a video of Blumenauer speaking in support of the amendment today on the House floor.

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.”

 

The STATES Act and What it Could Mean for Cannabis Businesses

By Tucker Arensberg, P.C.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Gardner introduced the “Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act” (“STATES”) Act – on June 7, 2018.  A companion bill was introduced by Representatives Earl Blumenauer and David Joyce in the House of Representatives.

The STATES Act seeks to amend the Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”), an effort to put the control of legal state marijuana programs in the hands of the states.  The proposed amendments to the CSA provide that as long as a person/persons is/are acting in compliance with their State or tribal laws relating to the manufacture, production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration or delivery of marijuana, the provisions of the CSA will not be applicable to them.

Perhaps most importantly for cannabis business owners, the STATES Act provides that transactions that are compliant with state and tribal law are not to be considered trafficking and are not to be considered proceeds of an unlawful transaction.  This provision seeks to alleviate the financial issues on cannabis business caused by the federal prohibitions in place.

Limitations imposed by the STATES Act include a prohibition on the distribution of recreational marijuana to anyone under age 21, unless for medical purposes, as well as a ban on the distribution of marijuana at transportation safety facilities (rest areas/truck stops).  Prohibitions of the CSA, including the prohibition of endangering a life while manufacturing marijuana and the prohibition of employing a person under the age of 18 in drug operations would continue to remain in place.

President Trump has made statements suggesting that he would likely support the bill.

The text of the legislation that was introduced in the Senate on June 7, 2018, can be found here:

House Passes Budget With Medical Cannabis Protection Amendment

Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment will Protect Patients from AG Sessions until September 

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: After months of debate and continuing resolutions, the House of Representatives has passed its Appropriations package for the fiscal year of 2018. Unlike previous short term measures, this bill will fully fund the government through September 30, 2018. At over 2,200 pages the bill is a massive combination of funding outlays and policy. Due to the hard work of advocates the bill includes the text of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment.

The amendment, which has appeared in previous versions of the annual appropriations bill protects medical cannabis patients and programs from federal interference by the Department of Justice. Due to the recession of the Cole, Ogden, and other memos by Attorney General Sessions, this amendment is the only thing that prevents large-scale federal raids and prosecutions against businesses and individuals complying with state laws. The full text of the amendment is below:

SEC. 538. None of the funds made available under this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to any of the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, or with respect to the District of Columbia, Guam, or Puerto Rico, to prevent any of them from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions lobbied Congress to oppose the re-passage of the amendment. In a letter sent in May 2017, he told Congress:  “I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.”  Sessions has been a vocal adversary of medical cannabis. Patient advocates fear that without the protections granted by the CJS Medical Marijuana Amendment, Session would be able to shut down medical cannabis programs and the patients they serve.

“The inclusion of the CJS Amendment in the House budget shows that Congress knows it must protect medical cannabis patients from AG Sessions and his Department of Justice. We are extremely grateful to the sponsors, Congressman Rohrabacher and Congressman Blumenauer, and the other members that showed leadership on the issue.“said Steph Sherer, Executive Director for Americans for Safe Access. “Now we hope the Senate will feel the same. We are one step closer to knowing patients will now be protected for another year while we work on passing comprehensive legislation like the CARERS ACT.”

Support for the re-passage of the amendment was strong and diverse. In November 2017, 66 members of the House signed on to a letter to Congressional Leadership that expressed the desire to maintain protections for state medical cannabis programs. The letter was signed by 28 Republicans and 38 Democrats.

A similar letter was also sent last year to appropriations leadership signed by Americans for Safe Access, The Michael J. Fox Foundation, US Pain Foundation, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Epilepsy Foundation, Tourette Association of America, National Women’s Health Network, and Realm of Caring.

The bill will now be sent to the Senate and  will be considered under a closed rule, meaning that the time of debate and ability to amend the bill will be limited. While a government shutdown remains possible over other policy provisions in the bill, it is incredibly encouraging to see the provisions of this amendment in the original text of the bill.

The bill also includes several provisions protecting industrial hemp, and a significant number of provisions related to combating the opioid crisis.

 

Oregon Set To Shield Marijuana User Data From US Officials

By Kristena Hansen, Associated Press

OREGON: Oregon state lawmakers who fear heightened marijuana enforcement by federal agents overwhelmingly approved Monday a proposal to protect pot users from having their identities or cannabis-buying habits from being divulged by the shops that make buying pre-rolled joints and “magic” brownies as easy as grabbing a bottle of whiskey from the liquor store.

The bipartisan proposal would protect pot consumers by abolishing a common business practice in this Pacific Northwest state where marijuana shops often keep a digital paper trail of their recreational pot customers’ names, birthdates, addresses and other personal information. The data is gleaned from their driver’s licenses, passports or whatever other form of ID they present at the door to prove they’re at least 21 as required by law.

The data is often collected without customers’ consent or knowledge. It is stored away as proprietary information the businesses use mostly for marketing and customer service purposes, such as linking their driver’s license number with every pot product they buy so dispensary employees are better able to help out during their next visit.

The measure that passed 53-5 now heads to Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, who is expected to sign it into law.
It would bring Oregon statutes in line with similar laws already in place in Alaska and Colorado and self-imposed industry standards in Washington state — the only other three U.S. states were where recreational cannabis is actively sold in shops to consumers of legal age.

“Given the immediate privacy issues … this is a good bill protecting the privacy of Oregonians choosing to purchase marijuana,” state Rep. Carl Wilson, a Republican who helped sponsor the bill, said before the final vote.
Upon the bill’s signing into law, Oregon pot retailers would have 30 days to destroy their customers’ data from their databases and would be banned from such record-keeping in the future. Recreational pot buyers could still choose, however, to sign up for dispensary email lists to get promotional coupons or birthday discounts. The bill’s provisions do not apply to medical marijuana patients.

Oregon’s move was one of the first major responses to mixed signals about President Donald Trump administration’s stance on the federal prohibition on marijuana, which is legal for recreational use in eight states plus Washington, D.C., and legal for medical purposes in more than half the country.

Worries began in late February when White House spokesman Sean Spicer first signaled a crackdown may loom on recreational cannabis. A few weeks later, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said medical cannabis has been “hyped, maybe too much” and is “only slightly less awful” than heroin. Trump, however, has previously suggested the marijuana issue should be up to the states.
Nonetheless, a federal crackdown could be problematic for states like Oregon where recreational and medical pot industries are closely linked. In Colorado, lawmakers are now considering a new pathway for pot growers and retailers to instantaneously reclassify their recreational weed as medical.

Last Monday, the governors of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington state asked for clarity about the Trump administration’s policy in a letter addressed to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose agencies took a low-priority approach to marijuana enforcement under President Barack Obama’s direction. Two days later, in a memo to more than 90 U.S. attorneys, Sessions said DOJ will look at marijuana as part of a broader crime-reduction policy review through mid-summer.

Congress, meanwhile, is gearing up for April 28, when funding for the federal government is set to expire along with its so-called Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which has blocked federal funds from being used to interfere with states’ medical cannabis laws since 2014.

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, says he and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, D-California, plan to push for the amendment’s renewal ahead of its expiration in two weeks.
“It’s pretty clear the (marijuana) prohibition has not worked,” Blumenauer told the Associated Press. “These questions are to be expected and they need to be dealt with, but it’s hard to envision going back.”

Got Bank? Election Could Ereate Flood Of Marijuana Cash With No Place To Go

By Lisa Lambert

Although the sale of marijuana is a federal crime, the number of U.S. banks working with pot businesses, now sanctioned in many states, is growing, up 45 percent in the last year alone.

Still, marijuana merchants say there are not nearly enough banks willing to take their cash. So many dispensaries resort to stashing cash in storage units, back offices and armored vans.

Proponents believe the Nov. 8 election could tip the balance in favor of liberalizing federal marijuana laws, a move seen as key to getting risk-averse banks off the sidelines.

Measures on ballots in California, Florida and seven other states would bring to 34 the number of states sanctioning pot for medical or recreational use, or both. That could push annual sales, by one estimate, to $23 billion.

The prospect for a market of such scale is adding urgency to calls for a national approach to marijuana that expands banking options. Law enforcement and Federal Reserve officials have expressed concern about the fraud and crime associated with un-bankable cash.

Nearly 600 dispensary robberies have been reported in Denver since recreational pot was legalized in Colorado three years ago.

“There’s not a single human being who thinks there is any benefit at all in forcing marijuana business to be conducted on an all-cash basis,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon who has called for the decriminalization of marijuana since coming to Congress in 1996.

 

Marijuana Foes Agree: Pot Research Is Needed

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: An unlikely pair of lawmakers is seeking to promote government research of marijuana.

Reps. Andy Harris (R-Md.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) — who stand on opposite sides of the legalization debate — are co-sponsoring an amendment that would help scientists study medical marijuana.

“Our amendment shows members of Congress with widely varying views on marijuana policy are united in support of building a robust body of scientific information on medical marijuana,” said Blumenauer, whose state recently legalized recreational use of the drug.

Dem Predicts Pot Will Be Legal In Five Years

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: A Democratic lawmaker is predicting that the federal government will decriminalize marijuana within the next five years.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) tells The Hill that “the decriminalization train has left the station,” and marijuana will be removed as a Schedule I controlled substance — where it is currently listed alongside substances like heroin.

“I fully expect within the next five years that it will be rescheduled, or delisted and I think we will have a system where states around the country will be able to do what they want with marijuana and I think this is going to be all over within five years,” Blumenauer said in an on-camera interview.

Oregon Rep. Blumenauer Campaign Ad Highlights Marijuana Reform

OREGON:  U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Portland, is talking about reforming federal marijuana laws in a series of campaign ads released Friday.

“Earl is passionate about these issues,” Blumenauer campaign manager Willie Smith said in a statement. “They are controversial for some, but these are things that are going to happen and it’s going to be because Earl has worked to educate people and bring them together.”

Blumenauer has been an outspoken advocate for marijuana reform this year.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzRjGtubbcA?list=PLWgO_qyMJotzYKWiqdYYwHzcs6o63R9wq]