REFORMING U.S. CANNABIS POLICY; Congressional Record Vol. 164, No. 66
(House of Representatives - April 24, 2018)

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                     REFORMING U.S. CANNABIS POLICY

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of 
January 3, 2017, the Chair recognizes the gentleman from Florida (Mr. 
Curbelo) for 30 minutes.
  Mr. CURBELO of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I am here this evening to 
emphasize the importance of reforming our Nation's policies concerning 
cannabis. This issue has grown to be increasingly bipartisan over the 
years, yet some in this administration have largely ignored the rising 
public support for legal, State-regulated cannabis.

                              {time}  2030

  Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Gaetz), a 
distinguished colleague from the panhandle.
  Mr. GAETZ. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from the Sunshine State 
of Florida for yielding, and I am so grateful that we have been able to 
find some areas of common ground in this Congress on the issue of 
cannabis reform.
  I am very proud, Mr. Speaker, to announce that, in the coming days, I 
will be joining the Judiciary chairman, the gentleman from Virginia 
(Mr. Goodlatte), in introducing legislation that enjoys support from 
across the ideological spectrum, and it will do several important 
  First, it will increase the number of people who are growing medical-
grade cannabis for research purposes.
  Second, it will end the gag rule at the VA that precludes physicians 
from being able to consult and speak with their patients about the laws 
in their particular States.
  Third, it will create a safe harbor so that some of the finest 
medical institutions and universities in this great country will be 
able to research and partner with private sector entities to determine 
the potential that medical cannabis can have to improve people's 
quality of life.
  And finally, this legislation will end the prohibition from having 
commercial, for-profit entities working in concert, in collaboration 
with some of those very universities and medical institutions.
  So my hope is that by focussing first on the issues that bring us 
together, we will be able to advance legislation to democratize medical 
cannabis research, and that, ultimately, can unlock cures and unlock 
potential for a generation of Americans that shouldn't be lied to by 
their government about the potential health benefits of cannabis.
  Mr. CURBELO of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for his 
leadership, his honesty, and his sincerity on this issue, and I am 
proud to say that I have cosponsored this legislation.
  Now I will yield to one of the original cosponsors of Mr. Gaetz's 
legislation and one of the great leaders in this institution on this 
issue for many years, the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Blumenauer), who 
has been educating colleagues and the American public on

[[Page H3502]]

cannabis. Tonight, I am pleased to be joined by him here on the floor 
and to yield to him.
  Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the gentleman from 
Florida's courtesy in permitting me to join him on this Special Order 
this evening. I appreciate the partnership that we have had on the Ways 
and Means committee and dealing with these issues publicly.
  It is true, I cosponsored the legislation that our aforementioned 
friend, Mr. Gaetz, referenced. I have been cosponsoring and introducing 
legislation like this for years. In fact, my Veterans Access Amendment 
actually passed both the House and the Senate last Congress, only to 
fall victim behind the scenes of, I think, misguided action on the part 
of leadership.
  I am pleased that we have been able to retain the Rohrabacher-
Blumenauer amendment that protects State legal medical marijuana, and I 
look forward to working with my colleague, as I know he wants to extend 
those protections to all State legal efforts.
  I want to say, as somebody who has spent a lot of time moving around 
the country working on these State campaigns, working with the 
industry, working with advocates, that I appreciate Mr. Curbelo's 
advocacy, that he is moving out of his district being involved with 
this conversation nationally and looking for opportunities to 
strengthen the position on the floor of the House.
  We are in a situation now, Mr. Speaker, where we have virtually every 
Democrat who now supports these simple, commonsense reforms, and, in no 
small measure due to my friend from Florida's persuasive efforts, there 
are several dozen Republicans, and that number is sure to grow either 
before or after the next election.
  This is an issue that we have watched slowly take shape. I was in the 
Oregon Legislature when we were the first State to decriminalize back 
in the 1970s, but there was sort of a hiatus for about 20 years.
  There was Richard Nixon's ill-advised and, I think, unfortunate and 
unfair war on drugs, the Schedule I categorization of marijuana. If we 
were doing it over again, probably it wouldn't be scheduled at all, but 
tobacco would be Schedule I because it is deadly and addictive.
  In the course of the last 6 years, we have watched what has happened 
at the State level accelerate. It has been medical marijuana since 
1996. But starting in 2012 with Colorado, Washington, and, more 
recently, we had initiatives in Oregon, in Alaska, in the District of 
Columbia, we had nine States vote in 2016, and eight of them approved 
  I am excited to watch this accelerated progress. In fact, I think 
what we have seen over the last 6 weeks is unprecedented. We are 
watching people in both parties be able to identify things they can get 
behind and move forward. We see survey research demonstrating that this 
is no longer a highly divisive partisan issue.
  The majority of Americans support legalizing adult use. Increasingly, 
there is evidence that a majority of Trump voters support adult use. 
Medical marijuana is like the Fourth of July. It is almost universally 
accepted, and I think the gentleman's district, in voting on medical 
marijuana in 2016 in Florida, was overwhelmingly supported.
  So now is the time for us to move forward. We have a bipartisan 
Cannabis Caucus, and I appreciate the gentleman participating in 
leading this. We have almost three dozen pieces of legislation. We had, 
this last week, a couple of things that I think were rather noteworthy.
  The former Speaker of the House, John Boehner, who opposed our 
efforts for years, has now evolved on this issue, and he now has 
actually joined the advisory board of a firm in Massachusetts. Both of 
us are familiar with them, looking at the leadership in the industry.

  We have watched Donald Trump, in the last 10 days, sort of clarify 
what he said on the campaign trail in 2016, that the States ought to be 
free to do this. He is reaffirming that and undercutting the attempt by 
his Attorney General Sessions to cast a pall over the State legal 
  We have watched the minority leader in the Senate, Mr. Schumer, come 
out supporting comprehensive legislation. I would note, for the record, 
it was very similar to what my colleague in the Senate, on the Senate 
Finance Committee, Ron Wyden and I introduced last year in a 
comprehensive fashion, but that is great. The more, the merrier.
  What we want to do this Congress is to be able to do some simple 
things. The legislation that we have worked on together to allow State 
legal marijuana enterprises to get rid of the pernicious 280E so they 
can deduct their business expenses, I appreciate the gentleman's 
leadership and focus on that.
  We ought to eliminate the restrictions that prevent robust medical 
research on cannabis. The Federal Government interferes with the 
research. There is no longer any reason for that.
  And in working on this, literally, for decades, I have never met a 
single human being who thinks there is anything to be served by forcing 
State legal marijuana enterprises to be conducted on an all-cash basis.
  These are things that we can change, regardless of whether or not 
people favor full legalization. These are simple, commonsense steps 
that have bipartisan support, and I look forward to working with the 
gentleman on that and then as we take this to the people.
  We will be voting on it in Michigan, probably in Missouri. Looks like 
there will be a ballot measure in Utah. Other States are looking. I 
think the momentum is building.
  I can't say enough about how much I have enjoyed working with the 
gentleman on these issues. I look forward to continuing that 
partnership so these simple, commonsense provisions that are actually 
supported by a majority of the people in the House and the Senate are 
allowed to be voted on.
  I hope that he can work his persuasive ways with the Republican 
leadership to eliminate those roadblocks and allow the House to work 
its will. America will be better for it. Americans will be freer, and 
there will be economic opportunity, health opportunities, and less 
destruction of lives with ill-conceived efforts to criminalize behavior 
of otherwise law-abiding adults.
  I thank the gentleman for his sponsorship of this conversation this 
evening, permitting me to be a part of it, and our partnership. I look 
forward to accelerating those efforts in the months ahead so that we 
can mark significant progress yet in this Congress, and next Congress, 
get it all taken care of.
  Mr. CURBELO of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I truly admire and appreciate my 
colleague. He is a man of principle, but he is also someone who is 
always at the table trying to find common ground, trying to see how 
this institution can work better, how we can all work together for 
commonsense solutions, for what, in this case, so many Americans are 
asking of this institution: to allow each State to come up with its own 
laws, its own regulations for this industry.
  So I thank my colleague very much for spending a little time with us 
here this evening and also for all of his work over many years, 
because, as he said, many in this institution are coming around on both 
sides of the aisle. But it is Mr. Blumenauer who, for a long time, led 
these efforts, and it was always an issue of consensus, the way it is 
today. So thank you very much to my distinguished colleague.
  Mr. Speaker, nine States and the District of Columbia have legalized 
the recreational use of marijuana, and medical marijuana is legal in an 
additional 29 States, including my home State of Florida. Over 70 
percent of Florida voters supported legalizing the use of medical 
marijuana in the 2016 elections, including 80.3 percent and 68.3 
percent in the two counties I represent, Monroe and Miami-Dade, 
  As a matter of fact, the President was in Monroe County Thursday, and 
many people greeted him in the streets. Many of those were supporters, 
considering 80 percent support in that district of this issue.
  On Friday of last week, a report published by the Florida Department 
of Health indicated the State's medical marijuana patient registry has 
risen to 100,576 people, a dramatic increase from the 23,350 patients 
registered in June of 2017. This milestone also happens to coincide 
with the opening of Miami Beach's first medical marijuana dispensary, 
Surterra Wellness.

[[Page H3503]]

  Despite overwhelming support from the public and medical community, 
however, legitimate businesses such as Surterra face financial and 
legal uncertainty because of a witch hunt opened up by Attorney General 
Sessions last year. To make matters worse, he is now hamstringing 
scientific research to analyze the medical applications of cannabis.

  I, along with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle, have taken 
a multipronged approach to improving our country's irresponsible and 
ill-advised laws on cannabis. Congressman Blumenauer and I are 
addressing the industry's significantly disproportionate tax burden 
through the Small Business Tax Equity Act, legislation which provides 
tax parity to marijuana businesses operating in compliance with State 
  I am also working with the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Garrett) to 
urge the Department of Justice to order the Drug Enforcement 
Administration to immediately approve additional registrations for the 
bulk manufacture of cannabis for exclusively federally-approved 
research purposes.
  Compliant manufacturers are attempting to provide State and Federal 
Governments and medical professionals with fact-based research on 
cannabis' effects, both adverse and therapeutic, but their applications 
to do so aren't being assessed. It is difficult for me to comprehend 
the logic behind blocking scientific research to analyze the medical 
applications of cannabis because I believe it is critical for 
policymakers to possess objective data on the effectiveness of cannabis 
as an alternative treatment for anxiety, depression, pain, psychosis, 
post-traumatic stress disorder, opioid addiction, and epilepsy. We owe 
it to American patients to open up the field of research on this.
  Now, the only logical explanation I can think of is that the Attorney 
General knows the facts of this field of research won't support his 
policies or the witch hunt he and his Department have been conducting 
on legal State-regulated operators across the country.
  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug 
overdoses claimed nearly 68,000 lives throughout the United States in 
2017 alone, with over 45,000 of those as a result of opioids, legal 
  An aptly timed article was published this morning by CNN Chief 
Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta in which he details the results of 
his investigation into the benefits of cannabis over the course of a 5-
year study.

                              {time}  2045

  Though admittedly skeptical at first, after dedicating countless 
hours with both patients and scientists scattered throughout the globe, 
Dr. Gupta began to view the plant in a different light: as a source for 
healing instead of a gateway for substance abuse.
  At the conclusion of Dr. Gupta's in-depth examination, he came to the 
deduction that ``not only can cannabis work for a variety of conditions 
such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and pain; sometimes, it is the 
only thing that works.'' Referenced in this article is an analysis 
conducted by researchers from the RAND Corporation, and supported by 
the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which showed an approximated 20 
percent decline in opioid overdose deaths between 1999 and 2010 in 
States with legalized medical marijuana and functioning dispensaries.
  Mr. Speaker, this analysis is similar to countless others I have 
heard that prove cannabis can quell both the disease of addiction and 
the pains associated with it. Now, some may view this investigation and 
others as if they are anecdotal, and to them I say, ``Let's find out.'' 
Let's stop hamstringing Federal research of the issue and let's let the 
facts speak for themselves.
  As I have said before in this Chamber, Mr. Speaker, the best ally 
that illegal operators like drug cartels and drug traffickers--who do 
not pay taxes, who target children, who have no safety standards for 
their products--the best ally they have are the policies that the 
Attorney General has embraced. Because by continuing to hamstring 
Federal research, over tax, and stoke uncertainty, legally operating 
businesses that are State regulated, that pay taxes, that are helping 
patients who are suffering, can no longer compete. And when these 
businesses can no longer compete, people turn to the black market.
  So inadvertently, I hope, the Attorney General is actually doing a 
great favor to the criminals operating outside the law by punishing 
law-abiding Americans trying to control the substance and make it 
  So I am here today to, once again, call upon this administration to 
not just allow, but encourage, meaningful reform on our Nation's 
cannabis policies. On this issue, we have an opportunity to reinforce 
the 10th Amendment and ensure the Federal Government does not overstep 
its boundaries and supersede the will of the States. On this issue, we 
have an opportunity to afford businesses selling legal products the 
chance to contribute to our economy and create jobs, while 
simultaneously crippling the criminal enterprises empowered by and 
prospering under the Attorney General's policies. And perhaps most 
importantly, we have an opportunity to change--and possibly even save--
the lives of Americans suffering from opioid addiction and other 
diseases and conditions.
  Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of colleagues in this Chamber who say 
people should be able to buy whatever health insurance or get whatever 
kind of health coverage they want, and the government should interfere 
as little as possible, and I agree. But on this issue, there seems to 
be a hypocrisy, and many colleagues want to impose a Federal view or a 
Federal perspective on States, on the people of States like Florida, 
who have already decided explicitly and clearly and overwhelmingly.
  So I thank my colleagues who joined me here tonight, and I truly look 
forward to the day where this institution can legislate in a way that 
respects the people of Florida, respects the people of Oregon, respects 
the people of Colorado, and American citizens in 36 States in the 
union, who have spoken loud and clear.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.