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Congress Will Pass Legalization Bills Next Year, Lawmakers Say

September 7, 2018
WASHINGTON – The next United States Congress is likely to pass cannabis legislation such as the STATES Act, two congressmen said here during a conference Friday, even if Republicans retain control of Congress in November’s election.

Speaking at the Cannabis Law Institute earlier today, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and David Joyce (R-Ohio) mixed their cannabis predictions with answers to questions about state and federal law from John Hudak, a Brookings Institution cannabis expert.

Forget About 2018

Neither lawmaker expects any of the numerous cannabis bills introduced in the current Congress to be passed before this November.

“I think it is a longshot something happens in the remaining days of this Congress,” Blumenauer said. But both agreed that political momentum and pubic support will force change after the mid-term elections.

It's not going to pass this year, but 'momentum is moving in our direction' on the STATES Act, says Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio).

“The public is fed up,” said Blumenauer, who co-founded the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. “Cannabis is going to be a significant issue in dozens of races around the country.”

The lawmakers spoke specifically about the STATES (Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States) Act. Introduced in June, the bill would exempt states with legal cannabis laws from federal cannabis law enforcement.

Momentum regarding this bill is “moving in our direction,” said Joyce. With 30 states having legalized medical marijuana, and 47 states adopting at least some form of decriminalization, he said, “it’s time Congress gets out of the way.” Recalling a conversation he had with former House Speaker John Boehner (who joined a cannabis company’s advisory board in April) Joyce added: “I believe this is a states’ rights issue. States have made it available medically. People should be able to receive it, and we should do more studies on it.”

STATES Act Is in Play

The STATES Act and other cannabis-related legislation will likely pass no matter which political party controls Congress, both lawmakers said. They cited increasing public support, especially for medical cannabis, and decreasing fear among politicians about the negative consequences of being pro-cannabis.

Even under Republican control, 'the dam breaks' in 2019, says Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.).

The bipartisan cannabis caucus has seen its ranks swell during its work sessions, Blumenauer added, which “demonstrates the potential for moving legislation forward.”

“I think it is possible even if the Republicans retain control, the dam breaks,” Blumenauer said, adding that more Republicans will begin co-sponsoring bills regardless. “Progress is inevitable.”

A Democratic takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives in November would likely speed up the process, Blumenauer said. “If we take back the House, I guarantee there will be committee hearings.”

“Once we get hearings, I think the dominoes will fall very quickly,” Blumenauer added. “I do think the next 12 months could be ‘game over,’ if we get the right results in November.”

Find the Cannabis Strain That’s Right For You

Overwhelming Medical Support

Political support for medical cannabis is especially strong, the lawmakers said, so any measures addressing medical legalization should see swift Congressional attention. “Most people want legalization, at least for medical purposes. That’s why I think we will see successes on the fall ballot,” Blumenauer said. “There is no downside for a candidate who embraces it.”

“I agree that we are about to turn a corner,” Joyce added. Many lawmakers have suppressed their voting support for cannabis measures because they feared upsetting chairs of their committees from their own party. No more, Joyce said: “Given the opportunity in the next Congress, they will do what they need to do for their communities.”

The National Cannabis Bar Association hosted the event at George Washington University. The event’s sponsors included Americans for Safe Access, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Minority Cannabis Business Association.

Ryan Basen's Bio Image

Ryan Basen

A writer living in Washington, DC, Ryan Basen covered medical cannabis, sports medicine and health policy for MedPage Today. He has also written for the Charlotte Observer, the Washington Post and the New York Times.

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  • #1 Guru

    Legalize in the US is inevitable. Trump should push this through, it might help his ratings…

    • Harrison Hecht

      The only thing

    • Leafly is Biased

      What is the path to Trump “pushing it through”?

      • Mark Myszak

        He directed Sessions to move the issue to congress……

        • Leafly is Biased

          And the article is about congress not doing anything on it. What is “pushing it through”? Obviously it is not congress.

        • bullish_11

          No he directed his mini-me to collect every Negative story about weed to present to stop this bill, he is Not a fan of legalization…

      • #1 Guru

        By signing an executive order.

        • Leafly is Biased

          That’s what I thought. Executive order for pot? Perfectly fine. Executive order to do anything the left doesn’t like, like stopping terrorists from entering the country…? Not ok, well unless it is Obama signing the exact same order….then it was ok.

          I know to many years of Obama and his pen have led you to think the POTUS can just sign in or out our freedoms, but major changes to policy still require approval by the… get this, Legislative branch. Who knew the legislative branch makes and changes law? Some have forgotten.

  • They’re dreaming. Won’t happen next year either. Nobody in Washington has a spine.

  • Dante-the-cat

    This pretty monumental. Mind you, a lot of dominoes have to fall first – so get out there in November, folks.

  • Etidorhpa

    Thank goodness! I can’t wait when I can legally drive my 18 wheeler and puff my afghan kush at the same time! God bless drugs!

    • Dante-the-cat

      Or a bottle of Jack?

    • Pam Kerstein-Maes

      Etidorhpa don’t be stupid about this! I hope you’re not serious. Puffing your afghan kush while driving your 18 wheeler will be just as illegal as drinking alcohol while driving.

    • IH8TD

      Puff and drive you go to jail just like drinking and if you are doing it in a 18 wheeler hope I am not on the road

    • justadbeer

      Etidorhpa ; )

  • pissed off

    I really hope Wisconsin hurrys up and passes this. The opioid i was prescribed really did a toll on me. Changing every thing about me sleep thinking physically. Weed is my savor but i can’t worry about the legal issues. I don’t have a record and hopefully never will btw im 57 as if that matters

    • IH8TD

      I hear you I am 60 and was on opioids for a long time they tore my body up I now smoke and use no opioids and feel a lot better then before.

      • Gary Craig

        I’ve been on opioids for, well, over 20 plus years. It’s gonna be hell coming off them, with or without cannabis.

    • Mad as hell

      lI too was forced to be on pain pills and now it is very hard to get the Monkey off my back! I am lucky to have gotten the Medical Marijuana Card. The CBD and the THC REALLY DO WORK!! My body still wants the opioid and I am decreasing my doses and will be pill free very soon. WE ALL need this and even more for it to be LEGALIZED ; to me it would not make any difference, the Florida Legislation got me hooked on pain pills because they feel “Marijuana” is no good for you!! Either way, legal or illegal, I will do what I need to do to be healthy and STAY ALIVE!! I am 72 years old!!!

  • 360dunk

    There are smart states and there are stupid states….

    Smart states are now awash in extra money received from cannabis taxes.
    Stupid states bend over with their heads in the sand, too ignorant to see how legalizing can bring in windfalls of cash, reduce organized crime, reduce opioid abuse, free law enforcement to focus on real crime, and unclog court dockets and jails.

    Maybe one day we will have 50 smart states.

    • Leafly is Biased

      Like Cali right? so awash in extra money that people would rather take the chance and buy illegal bud than touch the mess they made. Legal pot is not a defining moment in regards to smart and stupid states. This is a 10th amendment issue much like so many others issues. Now if the federal government would just give the power back to the states as intended…….

      • Jeff Hudson

        No, dumb like my state Alabama where a majority of people/voters think they know what is best for everyone. A lot of these people are two-faced know-it-alls who just know what is “right” and will listen to no other opinion. It is a crying shame really. Even if marijuana is delisted federally I would still need to travel to an adjoining state to get high for another 10 years.

        • Leafly is Biased

          So they are dumb states if the majority doesn’t agree with you and smart if they do agree with you. Sounds pretty dumb to me.

          There are 50 states. Move to one you agree with, I mean who isn’t dumb…….

          • 360dunk

            Why move to another state when you can mobilize in your own state and pressure the politicians to change their archaic laws regarding marijuana? Your approach is cowardly. Changes are not made by running away.

          • Leafly is Biased

            This isn’t about running or staying. You and Jeff say people whodon’t agree with your world view are dumb. Is it smart to stay around dumb people who wont change their minds as Jeff said? Is it cowardly to say if Trump is elected I am moving to Canada? Shouldn’t you just mobilize and riot? Oh wait… Seems mobilizing isn’t changing anything either.

            This isn’t “my approach”. This is the way it is. States are different from one another thanks to our 10th amendment. That is the way it is until it is federally legal and even then states can still make laws within their states against it. I believe rioting is cowardly, so maybe we just don’t agree with each other 🙂 A tactical retreat works when done correctly.

          • 360dunk

            I never said people who disagree are dumb….I said STATES that don’t get on board with legalizing cannabis are dumb and who could refute that after the early results in Nevada, Colorado, and others? Crime down, cartel profits down, opioid abuse down, court backups down….tax revenue up, way up, which helps cash-strapped communities and schools. The facts speak for themselves.

          • Leafly is Biased

            Yes, people who don’t agree with you are the STATES that don’t want legal cannabis. Making STATES in caps doesn’t change your opinion of them. A state is an object an incapable of legalizing cannabis or making it illegal. You obviously cant be speaking of the physical state but of the people who make up the state. The representatives and those who voted to put and keep them in office are the STATE!

      • justadbeer

        Agreed. Everything was looking good in Cali until the greedy politicians got their fingers into it. Now it’s so over taxed that even the black market is surviving and thriving. I think Cali is a perfect example of how not to do it. Colorado on the other hand seems to be more under control and thriving. So far they have taken in around 177 million in taxes

  • Colton

    Really hoping this isn’t a ploy for votes and once the election is over the bill dies. I don’t think there needs to be a bill strengthening the tenth amendment. It’s laid out pretty clear that anything enumerated within the consititution is left to the states. Most drug laws are unconstitutional, heck look at prohibition, congress realized it was a states issue so an amendment was passed. The only way marijuana could be illegal (constitutionally) is by an amendment.

    It still makes me sad Obama administration didn’t passed this legislation during his first term when the dems had the country.

    • Leafly is Biased

      How is it unconstitutional?

      I am all for the 10th amendment, but as we currently sit in this country it is not unconstitutional. This is what happens when you depend on government for everything. If you have the power to give, you have the power to take away. This has been the agenda for Dems for a very long time now.

      Dems had a super majority and didn’t do anything with it. Hard to blame others when you are the ones in power who passed the law, so they punted and failed.

  • william brandt

    Will pass as soon as Big Pharma and the Tobacco industry get a portion of the profits

  • David

    This will be the final thank you that the Trump administration will give to the people for voting him in, after the arrests for the past admins misdeeds maybe this will help the country heal.

  • Jeff Hudson

    Positive vibes are good. I sincerely hope 2019 is the year cannabis/marijuana/marihuana is descheduled.

    • Gary Craig

      Too many dinosaurs remsin in the U.S. Senate for anything to happen, unfortunately. Don’t look for anything to happen, cannabis wise, until after the 2020 election. I really wish I could be more optimistic

  • bullish_11

    Dotard has the munchkin working overtime to collect data to thwart any legalization in the states. They are working at this very moment to go through every state with legal weed and get ALL the stories that are Negative to use against any push for this bill. Dotard and his mini-me do NOT want you to enjoy the benefits of this bill… The only way this passes is if the Dems take control of the house, its your Vote, use it…

  • Stephen Patterson

    The big problem is getting any legalization bill out of committee, the other Sessions is the problem, he has stopped any and all marijuana bills from proceeding to chambers where it could be voted on

  • RickFromTexas

    The way things have been going lately, I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if Congress made it legal in all 50 states in 2019. And if not next year, it could become a major campaign issue in 2020.

    • Gary Craig

      That just might happen. In our dreams! In the real world not so much. The dinosaurs still rule the Senate. Anyone thinking Mitch “Majority Fossil” McConnell will bring the STATES Act up for a vote is delusional, dreaming, or both. Not gonna happen in 2019! Might happen after 2020, but certainly not before. This, of course, would depend on the make up of Congress.

  • God is dead

    As much as I hate socialist despots I hope the rats take control and end this bullshit prohibition.