Federal reform push after midterm election

During an appearance on FOX Business on October 11, U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) said that his communications with the Trump administration have given him confidence that federal marijuana reform will be a realistic goal of the 2019 Congress. There is support among Democrats as well. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has sent an eight-page memo to congressional leaders outlining a plan to end the federal prohibition.

Rohrabacher said that the president intends to keep his campaign promise to commit “to honoring states’ rights when it comes to marijuana legalization.” If the president does so, he may have no opposition from the Democrats. Blumenauer’s memo says:

Congress is out of step with the American people and the states on cannabis. We have an opportunity to correct course if Democrats win big in November. There’s no question: cannabis prohibition will end. Democrats should lead the way. If we fail to act swiftly, I fear as the 2020 election approaches, Donald Trump will claim credit for our work….Democrats must seize the moment.

Through these two announcements, highly placed sources in both political parties have indicated that an end to federal prohibition is under serious consideration after the 2018 election. Further, the Democratic announcement says plainly that “prohibition will end” even if the Democrats do not get to be the champions of that end. Both sides are looking to address the issue after November, however, not before.

The statements that Rohrabacher claim come from the Trump administration are directly contrary to the policies of the Department of Justice, however. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is an outspoken opponent of marijuana and brought an end to the Obama administration’s policy, outlined in the Cole Memo, of a hands-off approach in legal states.

Currently, the political forecasting site FiveThirtyEight puts the odds at “5 in 6” in favor of the Democrats’ winning control of the House in 2019. If senior Democrats take leadership of Congress, they will exert control over which legislation gets consideration. The current minority Whip is Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, who said in 2014 that he was opposed to legalization. In an interview this September, however, he said he now supports medical marijuana, and that, while he is less approving of recreational use, he has not missed the message being sent by the passage of that legalization initiative around the country.

Another candidate for the position of the leading Democrat in the House is Nancy Pelosi, who, like Rohrabacher, represents California. On January 4, she issued this tweet in response to the rescission of the Cole Memo: “Attorney General Sessions, your unjust war against Americans who legally use #marijuana is shameful & insults the democratic processes that played out in states across the country.” As early as 2004, she showed support for Rohrabacher in his effort to pass a law prohibiting the DOJ from “spending any funds to undermine state medical marijuana laws.” The bill failed to pass.

In 2019, however, such a bill may pass, given promises from both sides. Whether the bill will end prohibition completely, medical prohibition, or federal enforcement in legal states remains to be seen.

What do you think? What kind of end to federal prohibition, if any, is in store for 2019? Leave a comment below.

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