Federal marijuana bills boosted by new supporters as Congress gets back to work

Lawmakers lined up behind several cannabis-related House bills in the wake of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ policy shift last week rescinding the Obama-era Cole Memo that helped protect state-legal marijuana businesses.

The U.S. House of Representatives officially returned from recess Tuesday morning, but a slew of Democrats got to work Monday by adding their names as co-sponsors on four marijuana-related bills: The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017 (House Bill 975), The Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017 (House Bill 1227), Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act (House Bill 1823), and Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act (House Bill 1841).

The fresh pledges of support come amid calls from congressional members to shore up protections for states that have legalized marijuana. Congress members such as Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., indicated an “urgency” for Congress to act, citing Sessions’ rescission of Obama-era policies that provided guidance for marijuana-related matters such as enforcement and banking.

Perlmutter on Friday told The Cannabist that he and other members of the Colorado delegation spoke Friday about avenues to protect marijuana-legalizing states such as theirs. One possibility raised was to craft a spending bill rider similar to the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment that prohibits the Justice Department funds from being used to interfere with states that have legalized medical marijuana.

Rep. Jared Polis told The Cannabist Friday in an email that such a temporary fix was the least that needed to get done.

“I would say we need to go a step further and pass my Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act and lift the federal prohibition on marijuana once and for all,” said Polis.

Polis’ bill added two new co-sponsors for a total of 21.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., in an interview with The Cannabist on Friday, said he believed Sessions’ actions would spur additional support for cannabis-related legislation introduced in recent months.

Bookmark The Cannabist’s federal marijuana bill tracker for the latest on the cannabis bills before the 115th U.S. Congress.

Below is a list of the marijuana-specific legislation that gained new co-sponsors on Monday, with bill number, bill name, total co-sponsors and new co-sponsors.

House Bill 975 — Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017: amending the Controlled Substances Act so that its language does not apply to people complying with state marijuana laws.
Total co-sponsors: 35
New co-sponsors: Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa.; Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif.; Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif.; Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas; Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo.; Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md.; Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-N.Y.; Rep. Janice Schakowsky, D-Ill.; Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash.; Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla.; Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif.

House Bill 1227 — Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017: a bill to deregulate marijuana federally and include prohibitions such as interstate sales and trafficking.
Total co-sponsors: 19
New co-sponsors: Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Mass.; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif.; Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.; Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif.

House Bill 1823 — Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act: amending the Internal Revenue Code to provide for taxation and regulation of marijuana products.
Total co-sponsors: Nine.
New co-sponsors (Jan. 8, 2018): Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz.

House Bill 1841 — Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act: removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act; transition oversight of marijuana to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and to treat marijuana similar to alcohol under federal statutes.
Total co-sponsors: 21
New co-sponsors: Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa.; Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio.

Watch Colo. Rep. Polis talk about federal legislation to legalize marijuana

And read/watch more of the interview with Polis, who is now running for governor of Colorado.
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