The cannabis industry sure can lead to some strange bedfellows.
Tales of conservative, starched-collar financiers partnering with former hippie underground marijuana growers are commonplace as the industry begins to climb from the shadows of illegality and into the light of the open marketplace.
But even in Washington, D.C., where partisanship is seemingly more en vogue than ever, the explosive growth and ideological nature of the laws that helped create the industry are bringing together legislators from both sides of the aisle.
In late February, for example, freshman congressman Thomas Garrett — a Republican whose campaign website boasted such conservative bona fides as endorsements from the National Right to Life organization, the Police Benevolent Association and the National Rifle Association — introduced the “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017,” a piece of legislation nearly identical to the one proposed in 2015 by Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders.
If passed, the bill would remove marijuana from the list of federal controlled substances and allow states to treat it like liquor or cigarettes. It is co-sponsored by fellow Virginia Republican Scott Taylor and Democrats Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Jared Polis of Colorado.
“I have long believed justice that isn’t blind isn’t justice,” Garrett said in a press release announcing the legislation. “Statistics indicate that minor narcotics crimes disproportionately hurt areas of lower socio-economic status and what I find most troubling is that we continue to keep laws on the books that we do not enforce.
“Virginia is more than capable of handling its own marijuana policy, as are states such as Colorado or California.”
Garrett also highlighted the economic potential of the cannabis industry.
“This step allows states to determine appropriate medicinal use and allows for industrial hemp growth, something that will provide a major economic boost to agricultural development in Southside Virginia,” he said.
The legislation was introduced in response to statements in recent weeks from the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions regarding a potential crackdown on marijuana from the Department of Justice, something it has avoided since states began legalization efforts.
“During his confirmation, then-Senator Sessions pointed out that if legislators did not like this approach, they should change the laws accordingly,” Garrett said the press release.
The bill is also in line with a Quinnipiac poll released Feb. 23 in which 59% of people surveyed believe marijuana should be legal in the United States and a massive 71% said the government should not enforce federal marijuana laws in stats that have legalized.
Garrett’s bill is the second introduced this session aimed at protecting the burgeoning cannabis industry. Earlier this year, California Republican Dana Rohrabacher proposed H.R. 975, the “Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017,” cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 14 legislators from all around the country.
Rohrabacher and Polis, along with Democrat Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Republican Don Young of Alaska are members of the Cannabis Caucus, a group of lawmakers with a goal of protecting and promoting the industry.
In addition to the efforts in the House of Representatives, 11 senators on March 2 submitted a letter to Sessions requesting the DOJ continue the policy first laid out in 2013’s “Cole Memorandum,” which stated that the states should remain the “primary means of addressing marijuana-related activity.”
The letter is signed by 10 Democrats, including both senators from Washington, Oregon and Massachusetts and senators from Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada and New Jersey, along with Republican Lisa Murkowski from Alaska.
“We believe the Cole Memorandum provides a strong framework for effectively utilizing the DOJ’s resources and balancing the law enforcement roles of the federal government,” the letter reads.
The DOJ declined a Marijuana Venture request to be interviewed for this article.[contextly_auto_sidebar]