5 Things In Congress That Cannabis Consumers Should Be Monitoring In 2017
Many have said that 2016 was the biggest year in the history of cannabis reform in the United States, and I agree. The 2016 Election was in many ways a watershed moment for the cannabis community.
Four more states legalized cannabis for adult use, and all four states voting on medical cannabis passed, bringing the total number of adult-use states to 8 and medical cannabis states to 28. Washington D.C. has also legalized cannabis for both adult use and medical use.
With the election in the rear view mirror, all eyes in the cannabis reform community have turned towards Congress and state legislatures.
2017 may not be as much of a watershed moment as 2016, but it's going to be an extremely important year. Republicans will have control over Congress and the White House, which is likely going to create a different mood in the United States Senate and House of Representatives.
I don't personally feel that Congress (or the Trump administration) can completely wipe out the gains that the cannabis reform community has made over the last 8 years, but they can definitely throw some serious monkey wrenches into the mix.
Sweeping changes to the federal government's approach to cannabis would affect every cannabis consumer in America, many of whom have become complacent over the last 8 years.
Below are five things that every cannabis consumer should be keeping their eyes on in Congress in 2017.
#1) The Congressional Cannabis Caucus
You will be hard pressed to find two greater champions for cannabis reform in Congress than Representatives Dana Rohrabacher (R-California) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon).
These two men have fought on behalf of cannabis reform in the House for years, championing such causes as cannabis research, cannabis banking, protections for states that have legalized cannabis in various forms, and many other issues that help spread reform.
They recently announced the creation of a 'cannabis caucus' for 2017. The caucus was created as part of a long term strategy to promote cannabis reform in Congress.
It's a bipartisan effort that will promote states' rights, which Republicans overwhelmingly support when it doesn't come to cannabis. This caucus is absolutely something that cannabis consumers should be aware of and ought to be encouraging their Representatives to get on board with.
#2) The 'U.S. Drug Policy in the Americas Commission'
On December 10th, House Resolution 1812 was passed by the United States Senate, after having already been passed in the House of Representatives.
The legislation calls for a top-to-bottom evaluation of U.S. drug policy in the Americas. This is a potentially historic move in that not only could it affect cannabis policy in America, it could also affect cannabis policy in the entire Western Hemisphere.
Canada already legalized medical cannabis at the federal level, and is on its way to doing the same for adult use of cannabis.
Mexico's Senate recently passed legislation that would legalize medical cannabis at the national level. Countries in South America have been reforming their cannabis laws. Most notably Uruguay has legalized cannabis.
The United States, despite being a leader on many international issues, has fallen far behind when it comes to cannabis policy. This new commission will have its hands full, and should be monitored by cannabis consumers everywhere.
#3) GOP vows to block all cannabis votes
The Republicans have taken over the White House again after Donald Trump won the 2016 Presidential race, which is getting a lot of attention.
However, the Republicans also have full control of both chambers of Congress, which is likely to have a significant impact on cannabis policy efforts.
Republicans in the House of Representatives have already come out stating that they will block all cannabis votes in 2017.
This of course does not include every Republican, as previously mentioned Representative Dana Rohrabacher is very much pro-cannabis and is planning on pushing for cannabis legislation votes next year in Congress.
Whether or not anti-cannabis House Republicans will hold to their plan will have to be seen as the upcoming session begins.
An overwhelming majority of Americans support ending federal prohibition, so to see members of Congress dig in their heals on an issue with so much support to do the opposite would be very saddening.
#4) Will the Farr-Rohrabacher Amendment be renewed?
The Farr-Rohrabacher Amendment prohibits the federal government from spending any money on interfering with state medical cannabis programs in states that have legalized cannabis for medical use.
The Amendment was used in court to successfully fight the prosecution of cannabis providers. After a challenge in federal court by the accused, the federal court ruled that the Farr-Rohrabacher Amendment protected against such actions.
The legislation was recently extended until April 28. However if the provision isn't renewed by Congress after the extension is up, or if the provision isn't passed as an individual bill, it will go away, and along with it, the protections it provides.
This is something that all cannabis consumers should be watching with a very close eye, and should be pushing regularly when they talk to their members of Congress.
#5) Rescheduling and the American Legion
Military veterans have a unique voice when it comes to federal politicians. The men and women who have served our country should command a level of respect from elected officials that is at the highest level.
This is especially true when military veterans combine their voices, and approach the federal government as a united force. That was the case recently when the American Legion met with Donald Trump's transition team to discuss their priorities for the incoming administration.
Among their biggest concerns was the need to reschedule cannabis so that it can be researched, and to increase access to it for veterans who find relief from consuming cannabis.
The American Legion is lobbying the White House to reschedule cannabis from its current status as a Schedule I substance to Schedule III.
If the Trump Administration wanted to reschedule cannabis, it could via a very cumbersome process, which the Brookings Institute fantastically outlines in a video that can be viewed at this link here (jump ahead to 6:10 in the video).
Any movement on changes to cannabis's federal status will much more likely come from Congress. Congress doesn't have to go through the labyrinth of bureaucracy to reschedule cannabis. All it has to do is pass a bill.
2017 is going to be the most watched year in Congress from a cannabis policy perspective. Support for ending federal prohibition is at 60% in America according to the most recent Gallup poll.
More demands for federal reform are going to be coming from the states due to so many reform victories occurring this decade.
The cannabis industry is growing at an epic rate in states that allow it, and issues like cannabis banking and 280E reform are going to have to be addressed sooner rather than later, as the current situation is not sustainable for many reasons.
Patients are suffering and can find relief from cannabis, and they are spread out all over the country. Those patients have Representatives and Senators and those constituents are going to be lobbying their members of Congress.
Will Congress listen? Only time will tell, but the only way to find out is if we all do our part!
Have you talked to your federal Representative or Senators about cannabis policy?