Much of the cannabis world was shocked to hear that Colorado Republican Senator Cory Gardner had apparently secured a pledge from Donald Trump to not interfere with state’s legal cannabis systems and support a legislative fix to provide states the right to legalize cannabis without federal obstruction. In return for Trump’s pledge, Senator Gardner agreed to stop hold up Trump’s Justice Department nominees that he started blocking following Attorney General’s Jeff Sessions repealing of the Obama Administration’s Cole Memo that had given states assurances that Uncle Sam wouldn’t interfere with state cannabis laws.
After the Trump-Gardner agreement was announced, another landmark political event occurred when Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced his support of the removal of cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances, effectively ending the federal war on cannabis and leaving cannabis laws up to the states. Bernie Sanders, not to be left out, became a co-sponsor of Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act, along with Oregon Senator Ron Wyden and New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand. The Marijuana Justice Act not only ends federal cannabis prohibition but also punishes states with draconian marijuana laws. With Booker, Sanders, and Gillibrand all likely to run for president in 2020, it is easy to see that supporting cannabis legalization has become a very popular policy position for leading Democrats.
Despite the amazing progress over the last few weeks, the cannabis community was also hit with a rude awakening when House Republican leadership once again blocked sensible cannabis amendments from getting a full congressional vote. Texas Republican Pete Sessions chairs the powerful House Rules Committee that gets to determine which amendments get votes from the entire House of Representatives. Unfortunately, Rep. Sessions blocks each attempt to improve our cannabis laws. Most recently, Sessions and the rest of the GOP members of the Rules Committee voted down an amendment to repeal the 280E tax provision that prevents cannabis businesses from deducting normal business expenses. Pete Sessions is the first target of Congressman Earl Blumenauer’s Cannabis Fund.
Whether you believe Donald Trump, and it is understandable to be extremely skeptical, the agreement with Gardner is a positive development for the cannabis community. However, Donald Trump can’t force Republican legislators to vote to put an end to cannabis prohibition. It is clear that Republican leadership in the House is an impediment to legalizing cannabis in this country and passing the necessary laws to help the industry operate effectively.
Ending cannabis prohibition has become a bipartisan issue, however, it is in the cannabis community’s best interest that Republican Pete Sessions lose control of the House Rules Committee and that Chuck Schumer replace Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority Leader. Democrats are favored to take the House of Representatives in an expected Blue Wave (#BlueWave), although the math isn’t as good in the Senate, but it is still possible that the next Senate Majority Leader could support descheduling cannabis. A Democratic-controlled Congress is much more likely to send a bill ending prohibition to Donald Trump’s desk, so if you want to see a Green Wave across this country, we must start with a Blue Wave in the 2018 midterms.
My Let’s Hash It Out co-hosts and I discuss the Trump-Gardner agreement (after my three co-hosts utilize some fine Oregon cannabis) before delving into other issues on our 4/23 podcast: