The stage is set for another “productive year” in federal marijuana reform—with lawmakers positioned to leverage “tremendous bipartisan investments” from 2023, while pushing the Biden administration to move further on the issue ahead of this year’s election.
That’s according to the latest yearly marijuana memo from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), a founding co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus who is also marking the 50-year anniversary of his legislative marijuana advocacy work.
The memo details various achievements from the first half of the 118th Congress, including multiple bipartisan cannabis bills and letters, progress on the administrative review into marijuana scheduling and more. It also presents an overview of legislative priorities for 2024, as well as a call-to-action for President Joe Biden to lean more strongly into cannabis reform in the year ahead.
“This was a year for the books, and cannabis reform has been no exception,” Blumenauer, who is retiring at the end of this Congress, said. “Despite challenges in Congress, there are significant steps forward to celebrate as we reflect on the path forward.”
He pointed to the Senate Banking Committee’s passage of a bipartisan marijuana banking bill, the adoption of amendments to appropriations legislation to promote veterans access to medical cannabis and House committee approval of a measure to prevent security clearance denials based on past marijuana use as examples of 2023 accomplishments.
“Throughout the year, my Congressional Cannabis Caucus partners and I brought together a broad coalition of members from diverse communities around the country who all agree: it is time for Congress to embrace rational federal cannabis policy,” the memo says.
“Cannabis is a winning issue. With election season nearly upon us and the Biden-Harris Administration completing its formal review of the scheduling of marijuana, President Biden should keep in mind that no one has been penalized by voters for their embrace of cannabis reform,” it says. “President Biden himself owes his victory in Arizona to the young voters who turned out for their marijuana legalization measure.”
The document also notes that Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved a legalization initiative at the ballot in November 2023, and it says Florida is “set to legalize adult-use marijuana next,” depending on the outcome of a state Supreme Court challenge to decide whether it will appear on this year’s ballot.
“Despite dysfunction in Congress, we can accomplish significant reforms in cannabis in 2024,” Blumenauer said. “It is a commonsense issue that can bring people together rather than divide them.”
“In my final year in Congress, and then in the talented hands of the 119th Congress Cannabis Caucus Co-Chairs, we will take bold action to end the failed war on drugs once and for all,” the memo ends.
As the congressman explained, there are a number of potential cannabis policy developments at the state and federal level to watch for in the new year, including the possible completion of the review into marijuana scheduling.
Following a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommendation to move cannabis to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is now completing its review before making a final determination.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has also recommitted to prioritizing floor consideration of the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act in this second half of the 118th Congress.
As for the White House, many advocates have appealed to Biden to vocally support ending federal marijuana prohibition, arguing that while his 2022 and 2023 mass pardons for simple cannabis possession represent positive steps, they do not go far enough.
Read the text of the end-of-year cannabis memo from Blumenauer below: