Marijuana and Drug Reform

Marijuana policy at the state level has shifted significantly in recent years as states have moved to legalize the drug for both medicinal and adult use. Unfortunately, federal marijuana policy remains rooted in the past, as all types of marijuana continue to remain illegal under federal law.

It is time for Congress and the Administration to face the facts surrounding marijuana, its use and regulation, and develop a legislative framework that accounts for the

inevitable transition of marijuana policy – one that is already well under way. Federal marijuana policy should be modernized to reduce confusion, uncertainty, and conflicting government priorities. Maintaining the status quo creates an inconsistent legal environment that wastes law enforcement resources and misses out on potential tax revenues.

In 2013, Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Jared Polis co-authored a report “The Path Forward: Rethinking Federal Marijuana Policy” (updated 2017). The document reviews the history of marijuana prohibition in the United States, current conflicts between state and federal law, and outlines several opportunities to reform and clarify marijuana law at the federal level. Representative Blumenauer has also posted a FAQ on marijuana and marijuana legislation.


Oregon and Marijuana Reform in the States

In November 2014, Oregonians voted to end the failed prohibition of marijuana, establishing a taxed and regulated adult use system, making it one of five states to do so. For years, Oregon has been far ahead of the federal government on marijuana policy. We were the first state to pass the decriminalization of marijuana in 1973, and one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana. Now 29 states, the District of Columbia and Guam have fully legalized medical marijuana, and 22 states have passed decriminalization laws.

This movement in states is part of a larger evolution on marijuana policy by the American people, who are rejecting the failed War on Drugs – an approach that has disrupted the lives of millions of people needlessly through failed marijuana prohibition policies. 61 percent of the American population supports full legalization and 88 percent support the legalization of medical marijuana.

Despite this, however, marijuana remains federally illegal, classified as a Schedule I substance, the same as heroin. This discrepancy between state and federal law has created a confusing patchwork of laws that trap businesses, patients, and state regulators in the middle, creating public health and safety challenges, inequities for state-legal businesses and constant uncertainty about the future. It is time for both the administration and the federal government to catch up.


Percent of Americans who think marijuana should be legal, over time (Gallup)



Action Needed at the Federal Level

In 2013 we saw progress at the administrative level, with the Obama Administration establishing a policy to not interfere with state legal programs so long as basic federal priorities were met. Despite this policy, far too many arms of the federal government have continued to maintain an inflexible and prohibitionist approach when dealing with questions of marijuana and state laws. Federal resources would be much better spent elsewhere.  

Ultimately, however, Congress has the power to unravel this mess. While we still have far to go, we have seen rapid progress in the 114th Congress on this issue. Congress enacted a provision in the FY15 spending bill to prevent the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) from spending funds to prevent states from implementing medical marijuana laws. In the 114th Congress, over 70 bills have were introduced to help the situation. There were six additional measures that have come to a vote on the House floor relating to reforming hemp or marijuana policy, with three passing. An additional three amendments passed out of Senate committee. In the 115th Congress so far, thirteen bills have been introduced in the House and another six in the Senate. 


Representative Blumenauer supports legislation that would:

  • Allow states to enact existing marijuana laws without federal interference – Representative Blumenauer supports legislation to allow states to enforce their laws without fear of interference by the federal government.
  • Tax and regulate marijuana – Considering the growing number of jurisdictions that have legalized medical marijuana and the five jurisdictions that have legalized adult use, it is time that Congress removes the federal prohibition on marijuana. Representative Blumenauer supports legislation to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and create a regulatory and taxation framework similar to what is in place for alcohol and tobacco.
  • Remove the ban on industrial hemp – Representative Blumenauer supports ending the ban on industrial hemp by removing industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana. This would allow this agricultural industry dating back to our forefathers to begin to flourish again in the United States.
  • Allow the marijuana industry to operate in a normal business environment – Federal banking regulations make it nearly impossible for any marijuana business to obtain loans, open bank accounts, or take advantage of services offered to other businesses. Representative Blumenauer supports immediately removing tax and banking barriers to allow legitimate businesses to operate in states that have legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use.
  • Ensure safe access for medical marijuana patients – Too often, medical marijuana patients are trapped in the middle of the patchwork of state and federal laws. Representative Blumenauer supports ensuring veterans who use the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) services can access medical marijuana in accordance with state laws. He supports expanding medical marijuana research to better inform doctors about the benefits and risks, and supports keeping the DEA out of state medical marijuana programs entirely.

Representative Blumenauer has also formed a working group to educate members of Congress and their staff on the facts of marijuana use and national drug policy, and work to coordinate efforts to pass a comprehensive legislative package to address the issues highlighted above. 


As part of these goals, Representative Blumenauer has introduced the following bills:

Access to medical marijuana for our veterans:

  • H.R. 667Veterans Equal Access Act – Representative Blumenauer introduced legislation requiring the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to authorize physicians and other health care workers employed by the VA to provide recommendations and opinions regarding the participation of a veteran in a state medical marijuana program. This includes authorizing them to fill out any forms involved in the process of recommending medical marijuana.
  • Representative Blumenauer has also championed an effort to pass similar language as an amendment to the Commerce, Justice and Sciences Appropriations bill in the House, which was considered in both 2014 and 2015, only narrowly failing. A similar provision was passed in a Senate committee in 2015.


Business Equity:

  • H.R. 1855Small Business Tax Equity Act – Representative Blumenauer introduced legislation to amends the tax code to allow for deductions of normal business expenses for marijuana businesses operating in compliance with state law.


Criminal Justice and Equity:

  • H.R. 3124Clean Slate for Marijuana Offenses Act – Representative Blumenauer introduced legislation to permit the expungement of records relating to certain federal marijuana-related offenses.
  • H.R. 3561Fair Access to Education Act – Representative Blumenauer introduced legislation to exclude marijuana misdemeanor offenses from the list of offenses that can result in ineligibility for federal education financial aid. 


Tax and Regulate:

  • H.R. 1013Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act – Representative Polis, joined by Representative Blumenauer introduced legislation to create a federal regulatory framework for marijuana and removes marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act schedule.
  • H.R. 1014Marijuana Tax Revenue Act – Representative Blumenauer, joined by Representative Polis, introduced legislation alongside H.R. 1013 to create a federal excise tax on marijuana.


Additional legislation that Representative Blumenauer supports:

  • H.R. 262States' Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act – Prevents the Department of Justice from seizing property from people who are operating medical marijuana facilities in compliance with state law.
  • H.R. 525Industrial Hemp Farming Act – Removes hemp from the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act, ending the federal prohibition on growing industrial hemp.
  • H.R. 1940Respect State Marijuana Laws Act – Legalizes marijuana at the federal level to the extent it is legal at the state level.
  • H.R. 2076Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act – Creates protections for depository institutions that provide financial services to marijuana-related businesses.
  • H.R. 3629 Respect States' and Citizens' Rights Act of 2015 – Undoes federal preemption of state marijuana laws, allowing for the implementation of state law without interference by federal law.
  • H.R. 3518Stop Civil Asset Forfeiture for Marijuana Suppression Act of 2015 – Prohibits the Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Fund from being used for the DEA domestic Cannabis Suppression/Eradication Program or a similar program.
  • H.R. 1774Compassionate Access Act – Directs Administration to schedule marijuana at a place other than Schedule 1, removes CBD from the definition of Marijuana, and includes several research related provisions.
  • H.R. 1635Charlotte’s Web Medical Hemp Act – Excludes "therapeutic hemp" from the definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. Therapeutic hemp is defined as marijuana with less than 0.3% THC.
  • H.R. 1538CARERS Act – Transfers marijuana to Schedule II, creates protections for depository institutions that provide financial services to marijuana-related businesses, removes barriers to research, excludes CBD from the definition of marijuana, respects state laws, requires the VA to authorize providers to provide veterans with recommendations and opinions regarding their participation in state marijuana programs.


The Facts about Marijuana

  • More than half of Americans (63 percent in 2017) live in a state with access to medical or adult use marijuana.
  • In 2015, adult use marijuana was the fastest growing industry in America, ahead of electric vehicles and LED light bulbs.
  • Marijuana is the third most popular recreational drug in America, behind only alcohol and tobacco.
  • Nearly half of all Americans have used marijuana at some point in their life, either for recreation or medicinal purposes.
  • On average, nearly 22 million Americans have consumed marijuana in the past month.
  • 88% of Americans now support legalization of cannabis for adult use, up from 36% in 2005
  • Marijuana remains illegal on the federal level, and is listed as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act, which makes it the most common illegal drug used in the United States.
  • Marijuana is less addictive than both alcohol and tobacco.
  • Other drugs that are currently legal, such as alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drugs, have significant negative public health effects:
    • Approximately 88,000 people a year die related to excessive alcohol use, with each person dying an average of 30 years prematurely.
    • Over 10,000 people a year are killed in alcohol-impaired driving accidents.
    • Alcohol can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, general poor health, and antisocial and often illegal behavior that includes violence.
    • More than 480,000 deaths each year are attributed to tobacco smoking.
    • Since 2003, prescription opioid overdoses have killed more people than heroin and cocaine combined, and their abuse is now our fastest growing drug problem.