Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and other key congressional lawmakers are speaking at a special 4/20 event inside the Capitol Building on Thursday, laying out their vision for marijuana reform in the 118th Congress.
The National Cannabis Policy Summit will also feature the bipartisan co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus: Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Dave Joyce (R-OH) and Brian Mast (R-FL).
Schumer, who introduced a federal marijuana legalization bill last year while working to build consensus around a package of cannabis banking and expungements legislation, is expected to share his perspective on the status of congressional marijuana talks and his expectations for what’s achievable this year.
Watch Schumer speak at the National Cannabis Policy Summit Congressional Forum in the video below:
— Minority Cannabis (@MinCannBusAssoc) April 20, 2023
The majority leader’s efforts to pass the so-called SAFE Plus package ultimately might not have been successful last Congress, but the hope is that those conversations helped to lay a bipartisan groundwork to advance the issue this session, even with Republicans in control of the House now.
Blumenauer, who filed a bill to allow marijuana businesses to take federal tax deductions earlier this week, said at a press briefing on Wednesday that thinks it’s important that advocates and lawmakers align on any incremental proposals to end the drug war, warning against an “all-or-nothing” mentality.
Beside Schumer and the Cannabis Caucus co-chairs, Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) are also slated to speak at Thursday’s event. The senator served as governor of Colorado when voters made the state one of the first to legalize adult-use cannabis. Mace filed her own federal marijuana legalization bill last year.
While pro-legalization festivals and forums have been held outside of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. in April in recent years, this policy-centric event is one of the first of its kind to take place inside the Capitol Building, a sign of the normalization of marijuana issues as more states have enacted legalization and the pressure for federal reform continues to build.
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Several additional cannabis bills have also been filed in the week leading up to 4/20, though lawmakers didn’t explicitly say that the timing was related to the holiday.
Bipartisan House and Senate lawmakers refiled bills on Tuesday to legalize medical marijuana for military veterans, for example.
Also on Tuesday, Joyce and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) refiled the Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act to incentivize state and local cannabis expungements with federally funded grants.
Last week, Joyce and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) filed a measure designed to prepare the federal government for marijuana legalization, directing the attorney general to form a commission to study and make recommendations about regulating cannabis in a way similar to alcohol.
Schumer has previously used the unofficial cannabis holiday of 4/20 as an opportunity to reaffirm his commitment to ending prohibition in the past, including in speech on the Senate floor in 2021.
He also spoke about his “promise” to introduce his much-anticipated legalization bill during last year’s National Cannabis Policy Summit, held the week of 4/20. The majority leader fulfilled that promise over the summer, though the legislation did not end up advancing.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) was a cosponsor of that legalization bill, and he recently raised eyebrows after disclosing that he personally considers marijuana to be a “dangerous drug” that needs to be regulated and studied more. He also lamented what he views as the equity shortcomings of state-level legalization.
Meanwhile, as has become an annual tradition, 4/20 has inspired numerous brands, celebrities, organizations, politicians and government agencies to tap into cannabis culture with their own messages, campaigns and promotions.
Image element courtesy of Tim Evanson.
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