By Amanda Weston
Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon is pushing forward for marijuana reform, introducing the aptly named House Resolution 420 to regulate marijuana much like alcohol was regulated post-Prohibition.
"Ultimately we're going to be moving in that direction, allowing the states to be able to set up a regulatory system that meets their needs ーhave their own approach in terms of taxation and distribution, just like alcohol," Blumenauer told Cheddar Tuesday. "After we repealed Prohibition, individual states worked out things that made sense for them. And I think ultimately that's what we should do with the cannabis market. And this legislation would get the federal government out of the way so states could exercise what they want to do with legalization within their boundaries."
Blumenauer has been working on this cause for decades, ever since Oregon became the first state to decriminalize marijuana.
"Over the years, I have been profoundly impressed with the case to be made that prohibition has failed," Blumenauer said. "It's unfair. It's inequitable. And we're losing some substantial benefits that are available. So for me, it ties together so many elements in a way that will actually bring people together, improve the quality of life. It will actually save money rather than costing it."
Oregon is unique in its problem of having too much weed for its existing market. However, the state is currently prohibited from shipping its products across state lines.
But in his quest for new rules that are "more realistic," Blumenauer is looking beyond just the U.S.
"We are moving toward, not just a national cannabis market, but an international cannabis market with the legalization in Canada last October," Blumenauer said. "They're looking at it in Mexico. These are things we can do that will really provide more value."
Blumenaeur said that having an interstate compact to shift supply to parts of the country that don't have a "robust market for production" could even eliminate the black market.
"It affects health. It affects criminal justice. It affects the economy," Blumenauer said. "These are opportunities that we have to change a failed policy of prohibition, which has devastated maybe a million young African-American men because of the unequal way that's it's been applied. There are health applications. That really makes a difference for people. And it is an emerging part of the economy. $10 to $15 billion here that is economic activity that can make a real difference."
While Blumenauer introduced H.R. 420 in early January, the government shutdown has stunted its progress.
"I must say it's a little frustrating because we lost the first six weeks of this session with this craziness around the shutdown," Blumenauer said. "Tempers were ー let's just say ー they were high."
However, the stalemate has not stopped the congressman from pushing for the resolution's passage.
"It doesn't have to be the number one priority of the Democratic caucus or the speaker or the leadership," Blumenauer said. "But what it should be is a priority where we're able to bring these things forward to make a difference."
For full interview click here.