On Jan. 9, Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer referred House Resolution 420, the Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol Act, to the Senate Judiciary Committee. It’s no surprise that Blumenauer would spearhead this type of legislation. He’s had has a long history with supporting cannabis legislation, and continues to push legislation forward.
In 2013, Blumenauer co-authored a report “The Path Forward: Rethinking Federal Marijuana Policy,” along with now-Gov. Jared Polis. The report gave a history of cannabis prohibition and advocated for cannabis reform. In 2017, Blumenauer started the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, which aims to help make federal cannabis prohibition laws and state laws that allow cannabis more congruent. Most recently, the caucus launched for the 116th Congress on Jan. 9, with Rep. Barbara Lee, Rep. Dave Joyce, and Rep. Don Young as co-chairs. “Over the last decade, I’ve worked to build understanding and consensus on the need for reform and our movement is cresting,” Blumenauer said. “I’m looking forward to working alongside Reps. Lee, Joyce and Young to build on the bipartisan work we’ve done to end the senseless federal prohibition on marijuana once and for all.”
H.R. 420 is Blumenauer’s magnum opus when it comes to cannabis legislation. It aims to treat cannabis like alcohol, declassifying it and putting it under the control of the Alcohol, Firearm, and Tobacco Bureau. At the time of writing, the bill has not been published publicly, so many details are not yet available. What is known for sure is that. Blumenauer is working to end cannabis prohibition at the federal level. “While the bill number may be a bit tongue-in-cheek, the issue is very serious. Our federal marijuana laws are outdated, out of touch and have negatively impacted countless lives,” said Blumenauer. “Congress cannot continue to be out of touch with a movement that a growing majority of Americans support. It’s time to end this senseless prohibition.”
While most cannabis consumers and advocates want cannabis prohibition to end in the U.S., some are saying this is not the way to do it. Megan Marchetti, operations and HR director at Eco Firma Farms in Canby, Oregon, told CULTURE about her reservations about the proposed legislation. “First of all, H.R. 420 is incendiary, and not what it should be called,” Marchetti stated. “Cannabis is nothing like alcohol. It’s not shipped the same way, it’s not grown the same way, it’s not produced in the same way and it’s not consumed in the same way. They’re nothing alike. This bill is going to push us further into a problematic hole, where [small cannabis companies] are just being bought up by big companies. They won’t be able to survive if they’re forced to distribute like alcohol.”
“Over the last decade, I’ve worked to build understanding and consensus on the need for reform and our movement is cresting.”
While details of H.R. 420 still remain to be seen, the fact that it aims to regulate cannabis like alcohol is cause for concern for many cannabis advocates. Aside from the regulatory issues, the name is also something Marchetti is displeased with. “I can’t imagine why someone would pick the name H.R. 420 that thinks we’re a professional industry. I think it’s a slap in the face,” she said.
While ending federal cannabis prohibition is a net positive, it’s imperative that the legislation that legalizes cannabis is impeccably crafted. As we’ve seen in legal cannabis states, when ill-conceived laws are pushed through in the name of progress, undoing the damage can be a tedious process.