Melissa McCarthy Spicer said there could be a federal crackdown on recreational marijuana! Is this true?
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer says many peculiar things. Regarding marijuana, he recently said, “I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement.” He also distinguished between recreational and medical marijuana before making a bullshit comparison with opioid addiction.
We’ll have to wait and see what this means, exactly, but a shift in the executive branch’s marijuana policy creates many complex issues. The most important one? Federal legislators could and should loosen marijuana laws soon.
One week before Spicey’s statements, Oregon’s Earl Blumenauer and Colorado’s Jared Polis (both Democrats), with California’s Dana Rohrabacher and Alaska’s Don Young (both Republicans), officially launched the bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus.
A caucus, or “congressional member organization,” refers to an organized group of lawmakers who pursue common legislative objectives and register the organization with the Committee on House Administration. Caucus members may assign staff (including shared employees) to carry out the caucus’ objectives.
The Congressional Cannabis Caucus intends to bridge the gap between the federal laws prohibiting cannabis and the growing number of states legalizing cannabis. As a bipartisan working group, the caucus presents a platform for lawmakers to cooperate across the aisle on the political work of swinging votes and upending failed prohibitionist policies. Immediate goals include but aren’t limited to: allowing normal bank accounts for cannabis businesses (ending the current cash insanity), reforming IRC 280E (which currently forces cannabis businesses to pay whopping taxes to the IRS), and supporting states’ rights to allow cannabis.
The caucus co-chairs represent diverse states that have all legalized “recreational” cannabis. Blumenauer (D-OR) has been a vocal supporter of cannabis law reform throughout his political career. Polis (D-CO) says he has never used cannabis but he supports sensible drug policy, states’ rights, and his home state’s booming cannabis industry. Rohrabacher (R-CA) has spoken publicly about using medical cannabis to successfully deal with his own arthritis pain. He was the architect of a provision in the federal budget (expiring soon) that prevented the US Department of Justice from interfering with state-level medical marijuana. And Young (R-AK) is a stalwart defender of states’ rights who doesn’t think the federal government should care whether or not people use cannabis, although he says he hasn’t used it himself. Staff from representative Blumenauer’s office confirmed that a good handful of other lawmakers have also committed to joining the cannabis caucus as inaugural members.
The symbolic significance of this should not be understated. As more legislators join, bipartisan support for federal marijuana law reform becomes increasingly visible and therefore likely. After Spicer’s hint that federal enforcement is probable, the need for legislative action is more urgent.
While Washington, DC, might presently resemble an episode of Black Mirror, cannabis reform could be an easy, bipartisan political win following the momentum of the 2016 election: Twenty-eight states have legal medical cannabis. Eight allow “recreational” use. A sizeable majority of Americans support legalizing some form of marijuana. Early figures suggest that legal marijuana sales amounted to $6.5 billion last year. Some estimate that could grow to $25 billion by 2020. Stay tuned.