A bipartisan group of federal lawmakers on Thursday launched at a press conference the first-ever cannabis caucus, ensuring that cannabis interests will be further represented on Capitol Hill in the coming months and years.
The cannabis caucus announcement
The unlikely coalition of lawmakers features four members of the House of Representatives, all of whom hail from states in which cannabis has been legalized for recreational use.
The members of the newly-formed cannabis caucus include Republican Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.) and Don Young (Alaska), along with Democrats Earl Blumenauer (Oregon) and Jared Polis (Colo.)
According to Rep. Rohrabacher, the grouping was formed in an effort to alter perceptions of cannabis usage.
We’re stepping forward together to say we’ve got to make major changes in our country’s attitude toward cannabis…
And if we do, many people are going to live better lives, it’s going to be better for our country, better for people, and it makes economic sense at a time when every penny must count for government.
A tipping point
Rep. Polis, who represents the city of Boulder, said that cannabis policy had reached a “tipping point” in the United States. The congressman pointed out that an increasing number of states nationwide have legalized the use of cannabis.
For the first time, it’s a majority of Americans that will have access to medical or recreational marijuana.
The congressman is not wrong: Election Day 2016 was a watershed moment in the history of cannabis policy, with four states legalizing cannabis for recreational use and four others easing their restrictions on the substance’s medicinal use.
In all, twenty-six states and the District of Columbia now have some form of cannabis legalization on their books.
Good for business
Another aspect of cannabis legalization that makes it so tantalizing for voters and lawmakers alike is that it has such great moneymaking potential.
That was the sentiment voiced by Rep. Young, whose home state of Alaska has been grappling with the question of whether to allow for on-site cannabis usage at the places in which the substance is sold.
And my goal is to make sure that if I’m in the business, like we have quite a few in Alaska now, as they do this business, they can run it as a business…
Get loans from banks, and put the revenue back into the banks, as every other business does.
Cannabis proprietors’ access to banking has become a hot-button issue for those in the cannabis industry. With the federal ban on the substance still in place, financial institutions have been reluctant to do business with cannabis businesses, out of fear that they may face penalties for violating federal law.
The continued federal ban has forced many cannabis companies to deal solely in cash and to forego any dealings with banks or credit card companies, a situation that has had a detrimental effect on business.
Rep. Blumenauer – a longtime champion of cannabis rights – sees the formation of the cannabis caucus as a harbinger of greater things to come.
This Congress is going to be a little better than last Congress, and last Congress was better than the one before that… It’s very interesting watching the momentum build.
The Oregon congressman also argued that Election Day 2016 had proven that the federal government was not in sync with the rest of the country in terms of cannabis policy.
Federal cannabis laws are out of touch, and Americans know it.