Pro-cannabis lawmaker laments shutdown: 'We really did just get knocked back on our heels'

Pro-cannabis lawmaker laments shutdown: 'We really did just get knocked back on our heels'
© Greg Nash

Rep. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerSenators urge Congress to include election funds in coronavirus stimulus Vote at home saves our democracy and saves lives House committee advances medical marijuana bills for veterans MORE (D-Ore.), a leading voice behind pro-cannabis legislation, said on Tuesday that the record-long partial government shutdown hurt the push for marijuana policy reform.

“We really did just get knocked back on our heels in terms of having this insanity where we lost six weeks or more,” the congressman said at a briefing on cannabis and the economy hosted by research group New Frontier Data and the Liaison Group, a lobbying firm.

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“We lost six weeks shutting down the government, for heaven's sakes. [It’s] insane and it’s frustrating for me because we had this grand plan of things we wanted to do,” he said. “If we’re going to finance your government three weeks at a time, it gets in the way.”

Blumenauer said he released a blueprint before the 2018 election for action Democrats could take on the topic if they took control of the House.

"I’ve given material to every Democratic chair about things that they can do in their committee,” he said of his recent efforts. “I had delivered all this material to people before this Congress, but everyone had been waylaid by this madness.”

Saphira Galoob, the top lobbyist at the Liaison Group, later asked Rep. Lou CorreaJose (Lou) Luis CorreaActivists, analysts demand Congress consider immigrants in coronavirus package Hillicon Valley: HHS hit by cyberattack amid coronavirus outbreak | Senators urge FCC to shore up internet access for students | Sanders ramps up Facebook ad spending | Dems ask DHS to delay Real ID deadline House Dems ask DHS to delay Real ID deadline MORE (D-Calif.) at the Washington, D.C., briefing if he sees more traction now for legislation to move.

“Are we moving in the right direction? I think for the most part, yes, but it’s not an automatic,” Correa said.

“For the most of us who work on it full time, we get anxious,” Galoob said.

With the government reopened, Blumenauer is again looking to committees to get started on legislation to tackle marijuana reform.

“The grand bargain is not going to be anybody’s piece of legislation, it’s going to be a cumulative effect of what happens with committees moving it forward and there’s space here to share not just credit, but work. I want people to not sign letters, not talk about it. I want people to work in the trenches on their committees,” he said.

He added that he plans to start with banking reforms because Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersOvernight Health Care: White House projects grim death toll from coronavirus | Trump warns of 'painful' weeks ahead | US surpasses China in official virus deaths | CDC says 25 percent of cases never show symptoms Democrats, Trump set to battle over implementing T relief bill Maxine Waters unleashes over Trump COVID-19 response: 'Stop congratulating yourself! You're a failure' MORE (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, comes from a leading cannabis state. The Judiciary and Natural Resources committees are also good places to start, he said.

Blumenauer noted, though, that Democratic leadership does not consider cannabis reform a top priority this Congress.

“It’s important to me. I’ve worked on it longer I think than any politician in the country. It’s not my top priority but, the point is, it doesn’t have to be the top priority,” he said.

— This report was updated at 1:10 p.m.