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Could Weed Be Federally Legal in 2019?

Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer laid out a blueprint today to decriminalize marijuana across the entire country

People participate in the Pro Marijuana Rally For Peace Justice and Unity in Atlanta, Georgia, 2015

If Democrats take the House, federal decriminalization could be on the table as early as next year.

Erik S. Lesser/Epa/Shutterstock

In honor of Canada’s first day with legal adult-use marijuana, an optimistic Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) sent a letter to House Democratic leadership Wednesday outlining a plan to advance federal legalization measures with the goal of federally legalizing cannabis by the end of 2019.

“Congress is out of step with the American people and the states on cannabis,” he wrote. “There is no question: cannabis prohibition will end. Democrats should lead the way.”

Blumenauer’s plan would begin as early as next January, when he says the key to advancing some of the 37 cannabis bills sitting in Congress is to have the individual issues evaluated by the distinct congressional committees. For example, the House Judiciary Committee could hold a hearing on descheduling marijuana; the House Veterans Affairs Committee could hold a hearing on veterans’ access to medical pot; the House Financial Services Committee could discuss the current barring of cannabis businesses from federally backed banks; and the House Ways and Means Committee could have a hearing on the unequal taxation of pot businesses.

Additionally, Blumenauer writes that these committees should start “marking up bills in their jurisdiction[s] that would responsibly narrow the marijuana policy gap — the gap between federal and state marijuana laws,” using examples like the protection of employment, protection of private property from civil asset forfeiture and the removal of barriers to marijuana research. He also includes, most importantly, the need to “address the racial injustices that resulted from the unequal application of federal marijuana laws” — or, in other words, a social-justice element that could begin to correct the racist tide of the 40-year-old War on Drugs.

By August, Blumenauer believes, the House can pass a package of marijuana laws to address these concerns, and the bills can move to the Senate. The Oregon representative hopes that, given the increasing public support for marijuana —  he cites a poll that 69 percent of registered voters support legalizing pot — the public will be able to pressure the senior body of Congress into passing the bill.

This whole plan, of course, relies on Democrats taking the House in November — Blumenauer has been talking with Democratic nominees across the country and is confident that they’ll be supportive if elected. But as of yet, it’s unclear if a Blue Wave will actually happen. (Even though, he says, the sheer momentum of the cannabis movement might even push enough Republicans onboard if they manage to retain control of the House.)

On a call with reporters, Blumenauer said that he believes key members of the prohibitionist movement — including Texas Rep. Pete Sessions and House Majority Leader Paul Ryan — won’t be returning next session, and with those opponents gone, the cannabis movement will be able to advance. He has been speaking with senior members of the committees, he said, and is confident that some will be able to get these specific areas of cannabis law on the agenda next year.

“The outline is ambitious,” Blumenauer admitted. “It’s aspirational, but it’s entirely within our capacity.”

Read the full memo at MarijuanaMoment.net.

In This Article: Cannabis, marijuana, War on Drugs

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