Skip to main content

Blumenauer Honored for Marijuana Leadership, Sentencing Commission Ends Acquitted Conduct Punishments, More... (4/18/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1209)

Marijuana Policy

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), a federal pot policy pioneer, wins an award for his efforts. (
Godfather of Federal Cannabis Reform Accepts Inaugural Earl Blumenauer Trailblazer Award. On Wednesday, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, accepted the inaugural Earl Blumenauer Trailblazer Award from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) at the 2024 National Cannabis Festival Policy Summit. The award celebrates lawmakers who blaze a path toward cannabis legalization.

"This is a great honor. As somebody who has been fighting this battle for over half a century, I hope it inspires all of us to redouble our efforts and make this the year we finally end the failed war on drugs. We are in the midst of a revolution and Joe Biden could help make landmark progress. It wouldn't just have profound political impact, it is absolutely the right thing to do," said Blumenauer.

"After more than half a century fighting for cannabis justice, we are at the cusp of momentous change, and we absolutely would not be here without Earl Blumenauer," said NORML founder Keith Stroup. "We are incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to bestow this award on him in honor of his courage and leadership, and also in the hopes that many other lawmakers will follow the path he has charted."

NORML gives Blumenauer a lot of credit. Announcing the award, they credited him with leadership on the issue going back to 1973. In 2012, they noted, Blumenauer and then-Representative Jared Polis founded the Marijuana Working Group. The two Representatives released the first comprehensive legislative blueprint to legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis federally. And in 2017, Blumenauer, with Representatives Polis, Young, and Rohrabacher, founded the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.

In 2020, Blumenauer's Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act became the first and only comprehensive legalization legislation to pass either chamber of the United States Congress. Less than two years later, Blumenauer's Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act was signed into law by President Biden.

Most recently, Blumenauer led calls on the Biden-Harris administration from the House of Representatives to deshedule cannabis entirely, while pressing DEA to increase transparency in the scheduling review process.

Blumenauer current legislative agenda includes:

  • The SAFE Banking Act to allow state-legal businesses to access standard financial services.
  • The Small Business Tax Equity Act to allow state-legal businesses to take standard tax deductions associated with running a business.
  • The Veterans Equal Access Act to end the Department of Veterans Affairs prohibition on supporting veterans in accessing medical cannabis.

Blumenauer announced in October he would not be seeking reelection.

The National Conference of State Legislatures Calls on Congress to Pass the SAFER Banking Act. In a Wednesday letter to the House and Senate leadership, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), called for passage of the SAFER Banking Act (S. 2860), which would enable state-legal marijuana businesses to access the financial and banking system.

"I am writing….to reiterate our support for the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act. We urge Congress to act quickly to attach the SAFER Banking Act to the FAA reauthorization and pass the measure," wrote Tim Story, CEO of the NCSL.

"The inability of legal state cannabis businesses to receive financial services from the federal banking system creates an unsafe position for these legal entities, as well as taxation and compliance problems for states that have exercised their authority to legalize cannabis. The SAFER Banking Act would provide much-needed banking resources to these legitimate businesses and help facilitate secure, simpler and more enforceable business activity in nearly every state."

"Currently, 47 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands have passed some sort of cannabis legalization. Yet, legitimate business owners must continue to rely on cash-only cannabis transactions. This exchange increases the real risk that they, their employees, and customers become prime targets for theft, burglary, armed robbery, and other crimes that jeopardize the safety of persons and property, as well as endanger the greater communities where your constituents live and work and these businesses operate."

"Cannabis will remain illegal under the SAFER Banking Act, and we strongly believe that supporting this legislation is not akin to endorsing its legalization under federal or state law. Instead, support for this act would help to resolve the long-standing tension between federal and state law with respect to banking and other financial services by allowing financial institutions to provide services to these legal businesses without penalty. The legislation would help reduce threats to public safety, enable better monitoring of the financial activity and enforcement of legal cannabis businesses, and demonstrate respect for state authority to legislate in this area."

"NCSL stands ready to provide further information regarding the impact of the SAFER Banking Act on states and we look forward to working with your offices to pass this important and impactful legislation," Story wrote.

Senator Rosen Files Bill to Help Expunge or Seal Marijuana Convictions in States Where It is Legal. On Thursday, Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) introduced the Harnessing Opportunity by Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act to help expunge cannabis convictions in states where it has been legalized or decriminalized by establishing a new federal grant program to cover the costs of these expungements or sealing of records. The funding can be used to update record-keeping technology, automate the expungement process, support legal clinics that assist individuals through the expungement process, and to seal records of conviction for marijuana offenses.

"While cannabis has been regulated in our state since 2017, many Nevadans are still dealing with the effects of past low-level marijuana offenses. Having a record for something that is now legal in our state threatens Nevadans' ability to get a job, apply for housing, and contribute to our state's economy," said Sen. Rosen. "That's why I’m introducing this bipartisan bill to help expunge and seal certain marijuana convictions in states like Nevada where it has been legalized or decriminalized. I’ll continue working across the aisle to support commonsense cannabis reform that helps small businesses in our state."

The text of the Senate version of the bill is not yet available, but the House version of the bill, HR 2677, which was filed exactly one year ago today, is available.

Drug Policy

Sens. Risch, Grassley, Shaheen Introduce Bill to Crack Down on Illicit Drug Precursors. Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today joined Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), co-chair of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in introducing bipartisan legislation to enhance global precursor chemical destruction efforts. The Destruction Initiative for Stored Precursors Overseas and Safe Enforcement (DISPOSE) Act would facilitate US collaboration with partner countries, including Mexico, Colombia and Peru, to ensure seized precursor chemicals are destroyed.

The bill represents a renewed reliance on the sorts of failed interdiction policies that have typified US drug repression efforts for decades.

"Illicit fentanyl and other synthetic opioids pose an unprecedented threat to American families. Far too many people in America know the heartache associated with the loss of life related to these deadly substances," said Risch. "Addressing this threat requires effective cooperation with international partners. This legislation will deepen cooperation with Mexico and other countries in the Western Hemisphere to verifiably destroy seized precursor chemicals that would have otherwise been used to manufacture illicit drugs claiming so many American lives."

Precursor chemicals form the basis of illicit drugs like fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamine. Currently, the United States has a limited view of how much -- or how little -- other nations are doing to destroy seized precursor chemicals. For instance, at a Senate Drug Caucus hearing in October, a Homeland Security Investigations witness testified that the Mexican government does not provide proof to the United States that it destroys the precursors they seize. Recent reports also revealed that Mexico altered its data reporting to artificially inflate the number of precursor seizures made by the Mexican government.

The DISPOSE Act would increase pressure on other countries by directing the State Department, in consultation with the Departments of Justice and Defense, to create the Precursor Chemical Destruction Initiative. The program would establish benchmarks and reporting requirements for partner countries to improve and increase rates of precursor seizure and destruction. The legislation also requires a report to Congress on the results of the program.

Sentencing Policy

US Sentencing Commission Passes Package of Reforms Including Limit on Use of Acquitted Conduct in Sentencing Guidelines. The United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) voted unanimously Wednesday to prohibit conduct for which a person was acquitted in federal court from being used in calculating a sentence range under the federal guidelines. The Commission's seven members also joined together to pass a range of additional reforms, including those that bring uniformity to sentencing for certain gun and financial crimes and provide a potential downward departure based on age. "The reforms passed today reflect a bipartisan commitment to creating a more effective and just sentencing system," said Commission Chair Judge Carlton W. Reeves.

"Not guilty means not guilty," said Chair Reeves. "By enshrining this basic fact within the federal sentencing guidelines, the Commission is taking an important step to protect the credibility of our courts and criminal justice system."

This reform comes amid robust debate on acquitted conduct from across the country. Last year, several Supreme Court Justices called for the Commission to address acquitted conduct, while a bipartisan group of legislators in Congress introduced a bill limiting the use of acquitted conduct in sentencing.

In addition to limiting the use of acquitted conduct, the Commission revised its policy statement on age, permitting judges to downward depart based on age if appropriate in light of today's richer understanding of the science and data surrounding youthful individuals, including recognition that cognitive changes lasting into the mid-20s affect individual behavior, culpability, and the age-crime curve. The Commission also moved commentary regarding the definition of "loss" to the body of the fraud, theft, and property destruction guideline to ensure courts uniformly calculate loss amounts. And the Commission addressed a circuit conflict over how to properly punish crimes involving weapons with altered or obliterated serial numbers.

The Commission will deliver amendments to Congress by May 1. If Congress does not act to disapprove the changes, they will go into effect on November 1, 2024.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.