Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) talked up de-scheduling marijuana on a May 11 visit to Brooklyn to raise money for his new Cannabis Fund political action committee.
Blumenaeur, known for the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment that prevents the federal government from prosecuting states with legal medical cannabis programs, touched on a wide range of issues at the High NY event at WeWork in South Williamsburg.
Rather than changing cannabis’ current federal classification as a Schedule 1 drug to another schedule, Blumenauer advocates removing it as a controlled substance altogether. “This is within our capacity,” he told about 100 attendees. “If we get the politics right, have hearings and experts come in, it would probably not be scheduled at all within the course of the next five years. It can happen sooner. We’ll see states be allowed to treat cannabis the way they treat alcohol.”
Blumenauer’s Cannabis Fund PAC is backing pro-pot candidates in the upcoming mid-term elections. “I’m raising money to give to candidates who have the courage to say the right thing and to make it a little easier for them to step up,” he explained.
Unseating pot opponent Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tx.) is the PAC’s No. 1 priority. “There are some special targets for me of people who have been serious impediments. One happens to be Pete Sessions – Jeff Sessions’ remote distant cousin. He chairs the House Rules Committee and has prevented us from having votes on some of these key issues. I want to make his life more interesting this year in a district that Hillary Clinton actually carried.”
Two Democrats – former NFL player and civil rights lawyer Colin Allred and former Obama staffer Lillian Salerno – are in the run-off on May 22 to face Sessions in November. Whoever wins will receive support from the Cannabis Fund.
REP. EARL BLUMENAUER: “There are some special targets for me of people who have been serious impediments. One happens to be Pete Sessions – Jeff Sessions’ remote distant cousin.”
Blumenauer encouraged people to get involved, put pressure on anti-pot politicians and vote them out of office. “In the last Congress, legislation I had to permit VA doctors to talk to veterans in states where medical marijuana is legal passed both House and Senate. The Republican leadership stripped it out. Actually, it was ex-Senator Mark Kirk chair of the Conference Committee.”
Illinois Democrat Tammy Duckworth defeated Kirk in 2016. “I’d like to think that one of the reasons he is ex-Senator Kirk is because people in the cannabis space reacted. We donated thousands of dollars to Tammy, wrote letters to the editor and had people campaigning and kicking up dust.”
The Congressman spoke at length about the hot topic of paying reparations to African Americans and Latinos unjustly persecuted by marijuana laws. “If you deal with things like reparations, you’ll find that there are 50 different groups that have 50 different ideas. There will be some that say where will this end because there are lots of things we’ve done as a nation that we probably should try and deal with some kind of recompense. Each degree of complexity that we add makes it harder to achieve and will take longer.
“For me, I want action and progress. I want to take care of the criminal justice issues and not just with records. I want to get people out of jail. Certain things we can do relatively quickly, like the expungement of records. That ought to move in a heart beat. Being able to grant access to this emerging industry to populations, particularly the African American community, where they get a piece of the action guaranteed – these are things that can happen faster and more smoothly.”
Playing to he the local crowd, Blumenauer praised recent gains made in the Northeast. “What’s going on with Gov. Phil Murphy in New Jersey is also exciting. And New York seems to be kind of on the verge of taking another big step. If New York does that, it’s going to be extraordinarily significant.”
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