Blumenauer Calls For an End to Failed Marijuana Prohibition
Washington, DC – Today, as representatives from the Oregon Cannabis Association visit Capitol Hill, Representative Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) on the House floor called for an end to the federal government’s failed approach of marijuana prohibition.
To follow are Congressman Blumenauer’s remarks. Click here to watch his speech.
“Mr. Speaker, advocates from the new emerging marijuana industry in Oregon are descending on Capitol Hill at a very critical time for this fledgling industry. They have a report about the implementation of Oregon’s Ballot Measure 91, overwhelming approved by voters last year to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana at the state level.
“Possession became legal July 1st. Retail sales were authorized in existing dispensaries on the 1st of October to significant interest around the state. The first week saw an estimated $11 million in sales. They are working hard to implement the spirit and the letter of the measure, working closely with the Oregon legislature to refine it – learning from the experiences of states like Washington and Colorado that have already legalized adult use.
“Theirs is a positive story of economic opportunity, product development, tax revenues, more freedom for individuals, and eliminating the racial disparities in the enforcement of a failed policy of prohibition that comes down heavily against young men of color – especially African Americans.
“At the same time, there was a scathing report this week from the Brookings Institution researchers John Hudak and Grace Wallack that called out the roadblocks that are being put in place by law enforcement and federal policies that stifle medical marijuana research, interfering with science and the doctor-patient relationship in ways that are completely unwarranted, counterproductive and destructive.
“They come at a time when the federal court has told the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to stop harassing medical providers after Congress clearly passed legislation to protect the industry and, more important, patients’ right to medicine. The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment passed with strong bipartisan support, clearly specifying that the federal government should not interfere with state-legal medical marijuana operations.
“The Department of Justice, unfortunately, took an outrageously flawed position which infuriated those of us who authored these provisions and have worked to pass them over the last two years. The DEA ignored the law, and the Department of Justice defended them in this unfortunate action.
“It’s the latest example of how far out of touch the federal government’s agencies are with the reality on the ground – with the will of the majority of the American people who think that marijuana should be legal, and with the policies of the President himself. President Obama has declared marijuana no more harmful than other perfectly legal substances like tobacco, which is in fact true, and that he had bigger fish to fry than fight against state legalization. Unfortunately, some parts of his federal government are still frying those fish.
“The good news is that the tide has turned. As I mentioned, the majority of the American people now think marijuana should be legal. Twenty-three states, the District of Columbia and Guam now have medical marijuana, and 17 more have authorized a limited version of medical marijuana. We have four states and the District of Columbia that permit outright adult use with more states considering this over the course of the next year. All the federal government has to do, as Secretary Clinton recently said in Colorado, is just stay out of the way.
“Stop interfering. Let legal marijuana businesses have bank accounts. Don’t force them to be all cash. Let them deduct their business expenses from their taxes instead of penalizing them with grotesquely punitive levels of tax. Let the states continue in their efforts at reform. Let them treat it just like we do alcohol.
“The day is fast coming when the federal policy will be to robustly research, and ultimately deschedule – or remove – marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, no longer pretending that it is or should be a Schedule 1 controlled substance, and instead tax and regulate it at the federal level.
“In the meantime, the states will continue marching forward. The public will continue to request that we on the federal level stop interfering with marijuana, and Congress will continue our efforts with increasingly large bipartisan majorities to make this policy work to replace the failed attempt at marijuana prohibition.”