Blumenauer Discusses State Marijuana Ballot Initiative Victories
November 13, 2014
Today, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) hosted a press conference with Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Jared Polis (D-CO) and Dana Rohrabacher to discuss the recent ballot initiative victories on marijuana in Oregon, the District of Columbia, and Alaska, and Congress’s path forward. Below are Congressman Blumenauer’s prepared remarks.
Representatives Earl Blumenauer, Jared Polis, Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Dana Rohrabacher
There were many close elections across America last week, but there was one clear winner: ending our failed prohibition of marijuana and instead legalizing, regulating, and taxing adult marijuana use. Alaska and the District of Columbia voters joined Colorado and Washington from 2 years earlier with strong votes to legalize. Nowhere was that more emphatic than in Oregon.
Marijuana legalization passed in Oregon by a greater margin than it had in Washington and Colorado. It got more votes than our U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, who was overwhelming reelected, in a low-turnout, non-presidential year which experts predicted would depress the yes vote.
Perhaps just as important as these votes that passed was one to legalize medical marijuana that failed in Florida, but garnered 57% of statewide voters, again in a low-turnout, non-presidential election. Because it was a constitutional amendment that required 60% to pass, it was not approved this time, but there is no question that medical marijuana is in the immediate future for Floridians. If it is back on the ballot in a presidential year it will exceed the 60% threshold.
In the meantime, we are going to be working hard to implement the Oregon law and take advantage of the next two years to learn from the experience from others and refining our approach. We need to act in Congress now to solve two serious problems, not just for those states and jurisdictions that have legalized adult recreational use, but the 23 states and counting that have legalized medical marijuana.
Firstly, a narrow reading of the federal banking regulations requires that marijuana business be operated with cash only. Congress must fix this by passing HR 2652, the Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act, because restricting them from having bank accounts is unwise, and may lead to more criminality. Secondly, I have legislation, HR 2240, The Small Business Tax Equity Act, that would permit marijuana businesses legal under state law to deduct their business expenses from their income tax. Because of a quirk in federal law, commonly known as 280E, small and emerging businesses face punitive federal taxation that is unfair.
Passing these bills will help treat this emerging sector of the economy fairly and further protect the public. I am hopeful that as the reality of these elections and future changes set in, we’ll be able to do a better job of permitting them to operate and allow this rapidly emerging area of commerce to serve the public and thrive.