On June 21st and 22nd, Greenspoon Marder sponsored the Oregon Cannabis Association (OCA) as they met with the offices of over 40 members of Congress as a part of their third annual lobbying fly-in to Washington, D.C. Asks included supporting federal legislation focused on issues including tax equity, safe access to banking, and the opening-up of federal pathways to more comprehensive marijuana research. While lobbying for federal marijuana reform was the primary purpose of this trip, the fly-in also acted as a litmus test for federal support of state implemented marijuana markets. OCA members met with everyone from strong supporters and champions on the issue, such as Portland Congressman Blumenauer and staff, to staff members in offices of categorical cannabis antagonists (names omitted for risk of preventing future lobbying opportunities). OCA members were well received on both fronts and, in general, offices seemed excited to talk about an issue that gets less press than healthcare reform or Russia. While most offices agreed that descheduling marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act is unlikely to happen anytime soon, offices on the front lines of marijuana reform are confident that legislation addressing issues such as safe access to banking can happen without descheduling or rescheduling.
- The Trump administration has bigger issues to address
While not concrete, the impression received from various congressional offices is as follows: Even with news of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session’s letter asking Congress to remove Rohrabacher-Farr protections, the administration is too bogged down with other issues for us to see any movement against state marijuana markets in the near term.
- Freshman Republicans see the writing on the walls
The War on Drugs is over and everyone lost. Public opinion in favor of medical and adult-use marijuana continues to grow and new studies are showing that opioid deaths are down in states with medical marijuana markets. Fresh faces (and some of the more seasoned ones too) in the GOP recognize this and seem excited at the opportunity to increase public safety, support state’s rights, and add stability to a growing industry.
- Putting faces to the industry is important
Washington, D.C., while representative of the entire country, is not the progressive West. There are still a lot of misconceptions about the people who use, grow, process, produce, sell, and advocate for cannabis. Many offices seemed surprised to learn that industry leaders are sophisticated business people and not stereotypical “stoners”. An important step in swaying federal policy makers to push for marijuana reform will be changing the perception of some in Washington of the cannabis industry, a fight where OCA is certainly on the front line.
- Congress is not just blowing smoke
Offices in which OCA members met understand that there are issues that state legislatures cannot address. These offices want to see public safety concerns addressed, they want to end diversions into the illegal drug trade, and they recognize the need for stability in an industry that is adding thousands of jobs to states with adult-use markets. Furthermore, they recognize that the changes OCA is lobbying for can only happen with federal support.
Stay tuned as bipartisan congressional support for marijuana reform continues to grow. We also want to thank our thirty member participants for spending the time, money and resources to make the trip.