Flanked by more than 150 advocates from around the country, Oregon Democrat Earl Blumenauer on Monday put forward his legislation allowing states to legalize medical marijuana in an effort to end the confusion surrounding federal pot policy.
Blumeanuer’s legislation, which has 13 co-sponsors — including GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California — would create a framework for the FDA to eventually legalize medicinal marijuana. It would also block the feds from interfering in any of the 19 states where medical marijuana is legal.
At a press conference outside the Capitol, Blumenauer didn’t attack the Drug Enforcement Agency for targeting marijuana dispensaries or blame the Justice Department for forcing marijuana businesses to operate in a legal gray zone. Instead, he pitched his legislation as a solution to the confusion surrounding federal marijuana policy.
“Frankly, the people in the federal hierarchy are in an impossible position,” Blumenauer said, adding: “It gets the federal government and the Department of Justice out of this never-never land.”
On the heels of successful referendums legalizing marijuana in both Colorado and Washington state, Blumenauer and Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) introduced legislation to end federal marijuana prohibition and set up a scheme to tax the drug.
The activists surrounding Blumenauer had just come from a four-day conference on medical marijuana, and many of them were veterans of campaigns to legalize the treatment in their home states. Some held a sign that wouldn’t be out of place at a tea party rally against the Affordable Care Act — “GET POLITICS OUT OF MY MEDICINE.”
Karen Munkacy, a doctor who helped lead the pro-medical marijuana side of a successful referendum in Massachusetts, said her breast cancer diagnosis forced her to “choose between breaking the law and suffering terribly. And I chose to suffer terribly.”
Scott Murphy, an Iraq War vet, said medical marijuana could help returning soldiers handle post-traumatic stress disorder or physical injuries. Murphy noted 22 veterans killed themselves each day in 2012.
“If medical marijuana could help just one veteran, it would be worthwhile,” he said.
Blumenauer’s bill isn’t likely to pass, but Americans for Safe Access Policy Director Mike Liszewski said bills in four states — New Hampshire, Illinois, New York and Maryland — have a chance of becoming law this year. In New Hampshire, where backers fell just a few votes short of overriding a governor’s veto last year, advocates are “really confident.” The state’s new governor, Democrat Maggie Hassan, supported medical marijuana as a state legislator.