Last year was the biggest year in the history of cannabis reform. The 2016 Election victories brought the total number of legal adult-use states to 8 (and Washington D.C.).
The total number of states that have legalized cannabis for medical purposes is now up to 28 (and Washington D.C.) according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
According to Vote Hemp, 31 states have legalized hemp pilot programs and/or for research purposes. The momentum for reform has never been greater.
But there are still a lot of issues facing consumers and industry members today, despite recent victories. Cannabis consumers still face discrimination in the workplace and when looking for housing.
People are still sitting in prison for cannabis only offenses. The cannabis industry still desperately needs 280E tax reform, asset forfeiture reform, and adequate access to banking.
Reform at the federal level is going to be vital to the future of the cannabis movement, which is not going to be easy given the fact that the current Congress is controlled by conservatives, and the White House is full of longtime cannabis opponents. But there is help on the way.
Congressional Cannabis Caucus announced back in December
Roughly two months ago news broke that members of Congress would be banding together to create the first ever ‘Congressional Cannabis Caucus.’
Back in December the only two known members were Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) and Representative Dana Rohrabacher D-California).
Both men have been outspoken cannabis supporters for a long time, and have introduced cannabis reform bills in Congress multiple times.
But few details about the Cannabis Caucus were released at the end of 2016. The only other details were that the Caucus would obviously focus on cannabis reform, and that potentially Representative Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky) would be the spokesperson for the group.
The semi-cover of secrecy was removed on February 16 when the original four members of the Caucus conducted a press conference to officially announce the launch of the Cannabis Caucus.
Representatives Dana Rohrabacher (D-California), Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), Don Young (R-Alaska), and Jared Polis (D-Colorado) are the original members. I haven’t seen any news as to why Representative Massie wasn’t included with the launch. Hopefully he still joins.
The four original members of the Cannabis Caucus represent states that have not only voted to legalize cannabis for medical and adult use, but states that also have growing cannabis industries.
I cannot understate the significance of this group, which will hopefully lead a more productive than expected Congressional session for cannabis reform.
What the cannabis community can do to help
The most obvious way that cannabis community members can help the newly launched Congressional Cannabis Caucus is encouraging members of Congress to join.
Unless your Representatives are the four members that helped launch the Caucus, you should contact your members of Congress right now.
Even if your Representative is one of the founding members, you can still help by providing them information ‘from the ground level.’ Members of the Caucus are going to need to know what issues are most important right now, and cannabis community members are the best suited to know what that is.
Lastly, cannabis advocates can help drum up support in any constructive way possible when ideas/legislation comes out of the Caucus.
It is more important now than ever before to have a pro-cannabis voice in Congress. Without it, reform victories could stall, or even worse, go backwards. We can’t let that happen. Do your part and support the Congressional Cannabis Caucus!