Tag: Earl Blumenauer

Oregonians, Vote Yes on 110 to End Harmful Drug War Arrests and Convictions

Oregon has made a lot of progress ending harmful Drug War arrests and convictions, but there is still more work to be done. Let’s take the next step by passing Measure 110, the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act and move Oregon towards treating addiction with a health-based approach similar to the successful system that Portugal established nearly two decades ago. If you want to put an end to Drug War tragedies, such as the killing of Breonna Taylor, passing Measure 110 is a great start.

I’m honored to serve as a chief petitioner of this important measure, along with Haven Wheelock, a public health expert and advocate at Outside In, and Janie Gullickson, the executive director of the Mental Health and Addiction Association of Oregon. Measure 110 will end over 8,000 drug possession arrests and set aside over $100 million dollars for treatment and recovery programs that include job training, housing assistance, and harm reduction interventions.

As the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission notes, Measure 110 will end about 90% of all personal drug possession arrests. Currently, we are arresting nearly 9,000 people every year for misdemeanor drug possession, without funding adequate treatment programs. These arrests and convictions merely saddle people with criminal records, hurting their ability to get a job, an education, and housing. Further, as the justice commission states, Black and Indigenous Oregonians are disproportionately harmed by these drug arrests and convictions and Measure 110 will eliminate racial disparities of these harmful punishments by 95%.

Measure 110 pays for treatment, recovery, and harm reduction programs that include housing assistance, job training, and peer support by utilizing excess cannabis tax revenue. When Oregon first voted to legalize cannabis, only $40 million was expected to be brought in. Now, the state brings in over 3x that amount. Measure 110 locks in the first $45 million for the programs originally scheduled for funding and the Oregon Legislature ensured that the $9 billion dollar school budget will NOT be cut, thus money that is earmarked for law enforcement will now go to funding more treatment and recovery programs.

Measure 110 is a win-win for Oregon. If you are undecided, or know anyone that is undecided on the measure, have them read the endorsement of the Portland Mercury, or The Oregonian, and take a look at the long list of endorsers that include the Oregon Nurses Association, the Oregon Academy of Family Physicians, the Oregon School Psychologist Association, and the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP, formerly Law Enforcement Against Prohibition).

Longtime cannabis legalization supporter Congressman Earl Blumenauer is once again on the right side of history, urging Oregonians to end harmful Drug War possession arrests and treat drug use and addiction as a health issue, instead of a law enforcement one.

Justice Delayed: Cannabis Legalization Vote Postponed Until After the Election

It has been widely reported that the United States House of Representatives was going to vote on a cannabis legalization bill this month. Apparently, after a pushback from moderates, no vote will occur this month or next month. A vote on the MORE Act to end federal cannabis prohibition is now expected after the November 3rd election, during the lame duck session.

Politico reported how legislators were starting to get cold feet on holding a vote on legalization, despite broad public support:

Removing federal penalties for marijuana looked like an easy win for Democrats two weeks ago, but the momentum has stalled.

Democrats have been scared off by Republicans’ use of the marijuana bill to bludgeon Democrats on the lack of a coronavirus deal, and moderates in tight races worry it will be linked to hits they’re already taking over the “defund the police” movement. So instead of embracing the progressive messaging of this bill as an election win, House leaders are now thinking about punting marijuana until after November 3.

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Marijuana legalization has far-reaching national support from Democrats, independents and even a majority of Republicans, multiple polls show. Democrats have touted the MORE Act all summer as a criminal justice reform bill, amid ongoing protests over racial equity that a majority of the public supports. A disproportionate number of Black or brown people are arrested for cannabis possession each year, and this bill aims to reduce arrests and erase some marijuana criminal records.

Marijuana Moment got confirmation that a vote had been postponed:

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), cochair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said on Wednesday that she was open to delaying the vote if it meant that more members would sign onto it, but she also told Marijuana Moment that lawmakers would be “doing everything we can over the next week to build broad coalitions of support to ensure that happens sooner rather than later.”

The MORE Act would federally deschedule cannabis, expunge the records of those with prior marijuana convictions and impose a federal five percent tax on sales, revenue from which would be reinvested in communities most impacted by the drug war.

It would also create a pathway for resentencing for those incarcerated for marijuana offenses, as well as protect immigrants from being denied citizenship over cannabis and prevent federal agencies from denying public benefits or security clearances due to its use.

It’s a serious shame that election-year politics is complicating a historic vote to end federal cannabis prohibition. It’s a shame first and foremost because legalization is simply the right thing to do. Too many people are still having their lives ruined by cannabis arrests and too many small businesses operating legally under state law, are hindered by federal laws that deprive them of banking services and arbitrarily overtaxes them above and beyond what other businesses must endure.

It’s rather nonsensical that politics is disrupting a vote on the MORE Act because voters overwhelmingly support cannabis legalization. Yes, voters are more concerned about other issues, but a vote to end prohibition doesn’t prevent Congress from passing any other bills. Has anyone ever punished a politician for passing a bill that they actually support? Just a maddening move by the United States House.

The Congressional Cannabis Caucus Co-Chairs Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) just released the following statement on the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act:

“As Americans confront hundreds of years of systemic racial injustice, ending the failed war on drugs that has disproportionately hurt Black and Brown Americans must be front and center. As co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, our goal has always been a vote on federal marijuana legalization and restorative justice this Congress. We have worked to build support for this historic legislation and expected a vote next week. Thankfully, the leadership has now given an ironclad commitment that the House will consider the bill this fall. The public deserves this vote and we will continue to build support to meet our objective of passing the MORE Act in the House and sending it to the Senate, which is one step closer to enacting it into law.”

In spite of the delay, the cannabis community can still take solace knowing that the first legalization vote in history will be held sooner, rather than later. It’s taken a long time for Congress to catch up with the American people on cannabis, another month or two isn’t going to set us back too much. We’ve been fighting for freedom and equality for decades now, we aren’t about to be stopped.

Federal Representatives Urge Colleagues Legalize Cannabis to Promote Racial Justice

Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer made cannabis legalization and drug decriminalization a part of his police accountability plan recently and now he, and Representative Barbara Lee, are urging their colleagues to legalize cannabis as part of the movement to bring about racial justice. Cannabis prohibition has been a racist policy from its inception and the consequences have definitely had a racist impact as Black Americans are much more likely to be arrested and imprisoned for cannabis, even though use among races is about equal. Marijuana Moment reported on the Reps. Blumenauer and Lee’s “Dear Colleague” letter:

“We have all seen the pernicious effects of selective enforcement of cannabis prohibition across the country, and it is not just in red states or rural Republican America,” the letter states. “We have seen for the last 50 years the cannabis prohibition used disproportionately against people of color, especially young Black men. The use of cannabis is fairly uniform across different racial groups, but the people caught up in the net of cannabis enforcement are heavily skewed towards these young Black men.”

“It is time that we as Democrats take a stand against this pernicious hold-over from Richard Nixon’s blatant attempt at criminalizing the behavior of African Americans,” the two lawmakers, who are co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, wrote, adding that prohibition has contributed to mass incarceration across the country.

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“We urge you to examine these issues, the legislative options, and to make federal cannabis reform part of the communities’ support in their quest for racial justice. We have information in greater specificity, if you wish, and have other pieces of legislation that will improve this tragic situation. Regardless, we hope you will be mindful of this rank injustice and the overwhelming support, which includes 93 percent of voters under 30. The cannabis reform train has left the station.”

As federal lawmakers debate legislation to address police accountability, reduce violent encounters with law enforcement, and bring about more racial justice, they should heed Reps. Blumenauer and Lee’s call to end cannabis prohibition. A whopping 40% of all arrests are for cannabis. Each law enforcement encounter has the chance of turning violent and each conviction can unnecessarily deprive someone of their freedom and employment, educational, and housing opportunities. It’s time that Congress follow the will of the voters and end federal cannabis prohibition. It won’t solve our racial issues, but it is one piece of the puzzle.

Oregon Congressman: Legalize Cannabis and Decriminalize Drugs to Reduce Police Violence

As the United States combats our history of systemic racism and police brutality, many of us are searching for the right answers. What police reforms are needed? Is reforming the police enough? Do we need to disband police and start with a new system of community protection services? Should we defund police? What does it mean to defund the police exactly? As we grapple with all of these questions, and more, Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer has issued a federal action plan on reducing police violence that includes ending cannabis prohibition and decriminalizing drugs:

Policing Alternatives

Only 5% of arrests in America have been for violent crimes. In 2018, the highest number of arrests were for drug offesnes. Over 40% of these drug arrests were for cannabis, with over 90% being just for possession of the drug. Black people are 3.64 times more likely than white people to be arrested for cannabis possession, even though they use cannabis at about the same rate. Reducing police interactions by using non-law enforcement to deal with minor crimes and activities, and repealing punitive drug laws could reduce the criminalization and over-policing of communities of color. We need to rethink the way police are used and encourage alternative policing models that address institutional racism as they are being created.

Promote Alternatives to Policing
• Provide federal funding to support local innovation of non-law enforcement alternatives.
• Increase funding for federal grant programs that support partnerships between law enforcement and mental health associations.
• Repeal policies that incentivize over-policing of communities of color, including the prohibition of cannabis and the decriminalization of other drugs.

Representative Blumenauer has been a leader on cannabis policy since he was a young state legislator voting to make Oregon the first state to decriminalize cannabis in the early 1970s. As time has gone along, Rep. Blumenauer has become a stronger and stronger leader, helping found the bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus and taking on the harms of the Drug War. It is common sense that cannabis prohibition and the greater War on Drugs has failed us, with harmful and racist consequences. Let’s keep of the momentum folks, because the times, they are a-changin’.

Credit Unions Join the Call for Cannabis Industry Coronavirus Assistance

The cannabis industry has become too intertwined within our society and economy to continue this second-class treatment of lacking access to banking and other services that are available to other business sectors, even those not deemed as “essential” to our local economies. Essential cannabis workers are risking their lives like grocery clerks and other crucial employees keeping some semblance of our economy going and it’s past time that they start getting treated with some type of fairness. Of course, cannabis trade groups have been clamoring for some equality, but now, credit unions are joining the fray, in another step forward for the burgeoning industry.

Marijuana Moment reported:

In a letter to congressional leaders on Tuesday, the American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp (ATACH), Policy Center for Public Health and Safety and 28 partnering groups and financial institutions noted that the marijuana industry and ancillary businesses that work with state-legal cannabis markets are specifically excluded from loans and lending programs provided for under several packages of COVID-19 legislation that have been approved.

To that end, the coalition made two recommendations: 1) issue pandemic relief block grants for states to decide on their own how to allocate the funds or 2) amend current federal coronavirus aid eligibility requirements to allow cannabis businesses to get funds that are available to other companies.

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“The decision to bar the legal cannabis industry from these relief programs not only harms the longevity of the industry but also the hardworking Americans who rely on the industry for their livelihood,” the groups wrote to congressional leaders. “Cannabis companies are good corporate citizens and readily participate in pandemic-related measures to care for their workforce such as mandatory paid sick leave and working to care for those with the virus.”

This latest push falls on the heels of a bill proposed by Oregon’s Earl Blumenauer and Colorado’s Earl Perlmutter to make cannabis industry participants eligible for relief during the coronavirus pandemic crisis. From the April 23rd press release issued by the representatives:

Reps. Blumenauer and Perlmutter Introduce Legislation to Make Cannabis Businesses Eligible for COVID-19 Relief

Washington D.C. – Today, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) and Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) introduced legislation that would make cannabis businesses eligible for Small Businesses Administration (SBA) COVID-19 relief programs.

Currently, state-legal cannabis businesses are being left out of relief that was established to help small businesses weather the COVID-19 pandemic. Most notably, they are unable to access and participation in SBA’s loan programs—financial support that is designed to pay workers, health care benefits, and family or sick leave. This legislation would grant state-legal cannabis businesses eligibility for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), and Economic Injury Disaster Loans emergency advances.

“As Congress seeks to provide relief to small businesses across America, chief among those being left out are state-legal cannabis businesses that are essential to communities and have met the demands of this crisis,” said Rep. Blumenauer, founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. “We should include state-legal cannabis in federal COVID-19 response efforts.  Without providing these businesses the relief needed to carry out the recommended public health and worker-focused measures, we are putting these hard-working people – and ourselves – at risk.”

“Cannabis businesses are major employers and significant contributors to local economies in Colorado and across the country,” said Rep. Perlmutter (CO-07). “They should receive the same level of support as other legal, legitimate businesses and be eligible for SBA relief funds during this COVID-19 crisis.”

 Blumenauer also led a bipartisan coalition of nearly three dozen Congressmembers in calling on House leadership to ensure cannabis businesses are included in future relief efforts.

To read the full text of the bill, click here.

Virtually every industry is hurting, and even though cannabis businesses remain open in legal states during this crisis, they are impacted by required safety precautions, massive unemployment, and supply chain disruptions, like any other business sector. The difference is that cannabis companies often don’t have access to bank accounts, loans, grants, insurance, and other services available to businesses, all they while, being taxed at an exorbitant rate because of the 280e tax provision. It’s time that Congress, and our society give our essential workers the protections and tools they need to navigate this frightening phase, and the cannabis industry should be no different.

Congress Holds More Cannabis Bill Hearings

While federal reforms are taking entirely too long, it is still newsworthy and important that the United States Congress is holding hearings on important legislation. Each step at the federal level brings us closer to real change and today marked another important milestone for the cannabis community and industry.

As usual, Marijuana Moment was on top of another historic cannabis hearing:

The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held the meeting to discuss six cannabis reform proposals, including two that would federally legalize marijuana. Most of the hearing involved lawmakers pressing witnesses from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) on the obstacles to marijuana studies that those officials claim are needed before pursuing broader policy reform.

Conversation was more limited when it came to legalization bills such as Judiciary Chairman Jerrod Nadler’s (D-NY) Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which was approved by his panel last year. That said, formerly anti-reform Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) did lead a powerful discussion about the failures of prohibition and the need to deschedule cannabis.

Kennedy announced that panel leadership has agreed to hold a second hearing featuring the voices of people negatively impacted by marijuana prohibition, which he said “has failed.”

Portland Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer issued a press release praising the hearing:

Congressman Earl Blumenauer Applauds Energy and Commerce Committee for Holding Cannabis Policy Hearing

Washington, DC – Congressman Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, today released a statement applauding the Energy and Commerce Committee for holding its first cannabis related hearing.

“After years of working to advance cannabis reform in Congress, this critical hearing is an important milestone where another major congressional committee focused time and attention on our movement. I’m pleased Chairman Pallone and Health Subcommittee Chair Eshoo made this hearing a priority. It was important to hear a number of senior members of Congress affirming the change that is taking place at the state level and affirming the contradictions that are created by the federal government being out of step and out of touch.

The topics discussed today are all relevant to bringing our cannabis policy into the 21st century, including my bill to clear the barriers to cannabis research. The hearing also included our top priority, the MORE Act, legislation to decriminalize cannabis federally and address the consequences of the failed war on drugs. It’s past time for Congress to catch up to the American people. We need action, and today was an encouraging and important step forward in our blueprint for cannabis reform in this Congress”

Step by step, we are moving closer to legalizing banking access, reforming our tax code, and ending the failed war on the cannabis community. It is not only notable that important congressional hearings are being held, but also that we are swaying former prohibitionists like Joe Kennedy to get on the right side of history. While there is a lot more work to be done, it’s nice to see our elected officials starting to give cannabis law reform the attention and priority that it deserves.