11/11/16 Earl Blumenauer

Congressman Earl Blumenauer joins Mason Tvert & Rob Kampia of the Marijuana Policy Project in media teleconference - whats next at federal and state levels

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Friday, November 11, 2016
Guest: 
Earl Blumenauer
Organization: 
Congressman
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CULTURAL BAGGAGE

NOVEMBER 11, 2016

TRANSCRIPT

DEAN BECKER: Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

DR. G. ALAN ROBISON: It is not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally un-American.

CROWD: No more! Drug war! No More! Drug War! No More! Drug War!

DEAN BECKER: My name is Dean Becker. I don't condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison, and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war.

Hi friends, this is Dean Becker. Thank you for being with us on this edition of Cultural Baggage.

Following the recent election, when eight out of nine US states preferred either recreational or medical marijuana, the Marijuana Policy Project held a conference. Here's their director of communications, Mister Mason Tvert.

MASON TVERT: So, first, what we're going to do is have our executive director, Rob Kampia, give a quick synopsis of the outcome of the election. He'll go over what happened in these various states. We will then have Congressman Earl Blumenauer from Oregon provide some thoughts on what the outcome of the election means, and at the federal level what we can expect to see in Congress moving forward, and so on. And then we will take a break to allow questions. Then we will talk about what we can expect to see with regard to marijuana policy reform at the state level moving forward, and what states may be next to pass these types of laws, and I'm going to go ahead and hand it over to Rob Kampia, who is the executive director of MPP.

ROB KAMPIA: So, with regard to the marijuana related ballot initiatives, there were nine, of course, on the ballot. Quick summary is that four out of four medical marijuana initiatives passed, so the number of medical marijuana states increased from 25 to 28, and then, the reason it didn't increase to 29 is because Montana was an initiative that improved an existing law, that doesn't count as a new one, this was an improvement. So 25 goes up to 28. Four out of four victories.

On legalization, four out of five. So obviously, the biggest was California. Maine squeaked out a win, Massachusetts came through the way we thought it would, and Nevada, to many people was the most surprising, and for those who haven't been covering marijuana policy issues for the last 10 or more years, I'll just point out that Nevada's the only place where my organization has not only lost in the past, but we lost twice in the past, so, we lost a legalization initiative in 2002, the second initiative we lost in 2006, and the third try was the charm. So Nevada is now one of the four that just passed yesterday, and as a result, the number of legalization states increased from four to eight.

Arizona votes are still being counted. We're down 48-52. Mathematically I think possible for us to win, but unlikely, but the show is not over for at least another week, because Arizona has a tradition of counting ballots for approximately ten days. So right now, it looks like four out of five wins, with Arizona being an unlikely prospect.

So, what does this look like in the big picture? Clearly, this is one of the most significant days in the history of this movement, and marijuana prohibition. Looking at the big picture going all the way back to the beginning, I think that there are three points in time that rise up above the rest as being significant for this cause to end prohibition. The first was in November of 1996, when California became the first state to dramatically legalize medical marijuana. The second point in time was November of 2012, when Colorado and Washington state made world history by becoming the first two places to truly, fully legalize marijuana for adults 21 and over. The third point in time was yesterday. When you have four states legalizing on the same day, that's a big deal, and when California is one of them, that's an even bigger deal, and when Nevada goes from a history of failure to a convincing win, it's an even bigger deal.

So. Yesterday was the third of three very important days in this movement's history. In my opinion, the next time we're going to see an important day like yesterday is going to be the day that a future president, or perhaps the president that's taking office, will sign a bill to de-federalize the marijuana laws. I think the next big day will be in fact the end of federal marijuana prohibition.

So, that's the broad landscape. We're obviously feeling good in terms of state ballot initiatives. Eight out of nine is a shocking track record of success. As far as the presidential, I'll just say one quick thing, and then I'll hand the microphone over the Mason and the Congressman. On the presidential race, the positions between Clinton and Trump were very similar. Both of them said we're going to basically just let the states do what they want, maintain the status quo, and the policies, while vague and brief, both Clinton and Trump proposed doing what Obama has been doing, which is let's let the states deal with this, and let the federal government focus on other things.

So, we have no reason to believe that Trump would escalate the war, because he at no point has said anything about escalating the war on nonviolent marijuana users in state where marijuana's legal. He's not said anything like that. So, as far as we're concerned, if the federal policy is the status quo, then the states can continue moving forward, and we will see a string of successes in the future as well as being able to fairly implement the laws that just passed yesterday.

MASON TVERT: Thank you, Rob. I'm going to quickly add just one other thing, because it might be of interest, so that people are aware before we go to Congressman Blumenauer, and that is just a quick mention of a couple local results in Colorado that I think are very noteworthy. There was a particular, there were two particular measures in Pueblo County, which is a county in southern Colorado that had really embraced legal marijuana and established a thriving industry, there were a number of businesses there, they had created all sorts of incentives for businesses to locate there, they were raising significant tax revenue, starting a scholarship program based on that tax revenue from marijuana sales, and it was very much a big part of that county and that city.

And that county and that city voted last night on measures that would have banned those businesses, and this got a lot of news coverage. It was really held up as a referendum on legalization in Colorado. It was talked about as a community that had supposedly had enough and didn't like it and wanted to go back, and of course that turned out to not be the case. Those measures appear to have been soundly defeated, and it is quite clear that voters in Colorado are still quite happy with their decision to end marijuana prohibition and to allow these types of regulated businesses.

The other measure in Colorado that is noteworthy is the measure in Denver that will allow for a pilot program in which businesses can establish designated cannabis consumption areas, if they receive permits from the city. And that would require buy-in from the community, so basically, this is a measure that says if a private establishment wants to allow adults to consume cannabis and follow various rules and guidelines, they can get approval from their neighborhood organization or business district, and then apply for a permit to the city, at which point they would be able to allow adults to consume cannabis on their premises. The intention of this measure was to ensure adults who can legally purchase marijuana have places where they can legally consume it. Really, the goal is to keep people from using it in public, and this would allow tourists and other residents who cannot use in their homes to use somewhere legally, rather than out on the street or in the park.

And as of right now, that measure is leading. They're still finishing the counting, it is very slightly ahead, but it does look like it's going to pass, and really marks a next step in this debate, and the discussion surrounding marijuana policy reform. So now that Rob has talked about the state level changes, and I've just mentioned the local changes, we will go ahead and turn to Congressman Earl Blumenauer from Oregon to discuss what he sees as the next steps that will occur at the federal level.

REPRESENTATIVE EARL BLUMENAUER: Thank you, Mason. It was an historic evening, as Rob pointed out. This is something I personally have been working on since being a member of the Oregon Legislature in 1973, when Oregon was the first state to decriminalize marijuana. I don't know, Rob, that ought to be one of your dates, I think, in history. I don't know if it's quite as significant.

But this was, I think, tremendous on several levels. I want to begin by just saying how much I appreciate Rob's tireless leadership and the Marijuana Policy Project. We wouldn't be where we are today without those unstinting efforts with the hard cold-eyed analysis, with the passion, and the organizational efforts. It really has been remarkable. I've been struck as I travel around the country, working on it. Rob and his team are there, mobilizing support, helping work with people at the local level, to provide guidance, information, and resources.

I can't say enough about how impressed I am, and how grateful I am, that we're this much closer to ending a failed prohibition of marijuana. I also agree with his assessment of the situation with a President Trump. This is an evening of victory for the movement for rational policies for cannabis, and it was achieved with the support of a number of people who voted for Donald Trump. In Congress, this has been a bipartisan initiative. Some of the leaders, like my friend Dana Rohrabacher from California, has been on the front lines for years. Before him, Ron Paul was a leader. Some of our significant votes, five of which passed in this Congress, all of them, obviously, had to have support of Republicans going forward. There's been unstinting effort to make sure that this didn't get caught up in other partisan tugs of war.

The state-legal marijuana businesses have, I think, two specific objectives, because I do believe that the next administration will follow the policies of the Obama administration, give guidance from the Department of Justice, the Cole Memo that has sort of been a roadmap for how states could have state-legal marijuana programs, I assume will be continued, but, I think even if we didn't have signals from Donald Trump, the fact is that this is where the public has moved. It's not been the politicians who've led on this. The key dates that Rob mentioned were the result of votes of the people.

And we had stronger support for marijuana in nine diverse states last night, I mean, Montana, Nevada, Maine, as well as Massachusetts and California, very diverse states, but one thing that came through is that there's more support for these marijuana policies of legalization, regulation, and taxation, more support for those policies than either of the two candidates. I think the people have spoken, and they will continue to speak.

That's going to make it easier for us in Congress to build on bipartisan legislation to first of all stop the insane policy of making it difficult if not impossible for state legal marijuana businesses to have checking accounts. I've been working on this for decades. I've never met a single human being who thinks this is a good policy.

And now, as we are seeing 28 states where there are state-legal activities, having to pay these tax revenues with shopping bags full of twenty dollar bills, I think it's all the incentive we're going to need to be able to push this across the finish line, as we've seen growing support in both the House and the Senate to stop this insanity.

It's an invitation to money laundering, to theft, tax evasion. People recognize and understand it, and these are legitimate state legal businesses. Thousands of them now, and they deserve the right to have a checking account.

Second, they are discriminated against because of a provision in the federal tax code known as 280e, that prevents these thousands of state-legal businesses from fully deducting their business expenses. As a result, these marijuana businesses pay effective tax rates that are two, three, four times higher than similar businesses. It's unfair, it stifles the industry, it makes it, actually, to be an invitation in some cases for creative accounting, or hard to have full compliance. And those that do are, have their businesses crippled.

I have bipartisan legislation for this that would amend the 280e to eliminate this unfair taxation. The Senate lead sponsor is my friend and colleague from Oregon, Ron Wyden, who is the lead Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee. So, these two provisions, I think, are teed up, and we will see action within the next two years to stop this discrimination against state legal marijuana businesses, and I think it will be supported on a bipartisan basis, now that the playing field has expanded dramatically.

One of the references that wasn't made tonight, but I think is very -- this afternoon that was very significant, is that one of those votes for medical marijuana was in the state of Florida, with an overwhelming vote, more than 60 percent yes for medical marijuana. And that will become the second largest state marijuana market in the country. So when you have these large states, and also the first southern state, that's going to add to the incentive. There will be more and more people who are ambivalent, or maybe even opposed, about marijuana legalization, but they're going to serve their constituents, they're going to serve common sense, and so we will have more people aligned with us. We will get more cosponsors. And I think it is a matter of time before it moves forward.

The third major piece of legislation relating to cannabis that I fully expect to happen, and perhaps even in the first year of the new Congress, is bipartisan legislation to eliminate the federal roadblocks to marijuana research. My lead cosponsor for that research bill is a Republican who actually does not support legalization, but he knows that we need to have the research to answer questions, so that we're not debating over points that can in fact be resolved.

So, fair taxation, access to bank accounts, eliminating the roadblocks for research, are things that are teed up, ready to go. This national punctuation point on election night, where there is more support than for either presidential candidate, we're going to be seeing, I think, some significant progress, and hasten the day that we finally de-schedule marijuana, eliminate the insanity that it is characterized as a Schedule One controlled substance. But we don't need to do that to enable this movement to continue to gather steam and to make a difference, state by state, around the country.

DEAN BECKER: Again, that was US Congressman Earl Blumenauer, earlier we heard from the director of the Marijuana Policy Project, Rob Kampia, and you've been hearing the host, the gentleman I consider to be the father, the grandfather, of legal marijuana. He and a couple of friends wrote a book, Marijuana Is Safer Than Alcohol, So Why Are We Driving People To Drink. It's made a hell of a difference. That book, along with the persistence and hard work of Mason and his friends, swung the cat for legal marijuana in Colorado, and hey, look what's happening now. And I thank you, Mister Mason Tvert. We'll be back in just a couple of seconds.

DEAN BECKER: It’s time to play: Name That Drug by Its Side Effects. Loss of personal freedom, family and possessions. Ineligible for government funding, education, licensing, housing or employment. Loss of aggressive mindset in a dangerous world. This drug’s peaceful, easy feeling may be habit forming. Time's up! The answer: Doobie, jimmy, joint, reefer, spliff, jibber, jay, biffa, jazz, blunt, steege, greener, cracker, hogger, bone, carrot, maryjane, marijuana, cannabis sativa. Made by God. Prohibited by man.

Here's a bit of an update. This conference was a couple of days ago. Here's an update. For medical marijuana, Arkansas passed. Florida passed. Montana passed. North Dakota passed. Marijuana legalization: Arizona failed, sadly, but California passed. Maine, 98 percent reporting, it's yes, we've still got our fingers crossed. Massachusetts passed. Nevada passed. We're going back to the conference now.

MASON TVERT: So at this point, what we're going to do is, we're going to take some questions.

HOWARD FISHER: Hi, this is Howard Fisher of New Capitol Media Services in Phoenix. What happened in Arizona? Why did Arizona turn out by a four point margin to decide that even after legalizing medical marijuana, it did not want to go ahead and legalize universal use?

ROB KAMPIA: So -- this is Rob -- the polling in Arizona, all the way going back to the beginning of the campaign, which has been approximately March of 2015, polling in Arizona was always, you know, floating at around 51 or 52 percent support. And, you know, money matters in politics as we know, and the governor of Arizona raised a wall of money to oppose us in a way that we have not seen in other states on legalization or medical marijuana, any of the campaigns we've run. I think actually the amount of money that was spent in opposition to our proposal in Arizona, I think probably ranked number two of all time in terms of amount of money spent to oppose any particular initiative, with Florida 2014 holding the record for opposition money.

To put it in perspective, the amount of money that was spent against us in Arizona this fall exceeded the amount of money that was spent to oppose legalization in Nevada, Massachusetts, and Maine, combined. So, it was a ton of money. Now, granted, we did raise a lot of money on our side out of necessity. We were still outspent. And as a result, because advertising matters, their ads had an effect of tweaking it to probably two percent of the electorate, and scaring them just enough to push us under that fifty percent mark. So, I can't come up with any other explanation, except that a wall of money dumped into advertising surely can effect the outcome by a couple percent.

So, the strategy moving forward is certainly to try in Arizona again. What that looks like has yet to be determined, but given the hostility of the state government generally, and the governor in particular, hard to imagine passing a robust piece of legislation the old fashioned way to end prohibition and instead we'll probably end up needing to go to the people again, which could be in two years, could be in four years, most people would choose four years because the voter turnout is better during a presidential election and for marijuana initiatives.

So, that said, we are very committed to working on the state and federal level simultaneously, and our prospects in Congress are slightly better today than they were yesterday, because, while there were no major shake-ups in Congress, in terms of the vote count that we have in either chamber, the fact that eight states just passed something really good means that members of Congress in both chambers from those eight states are going to be more likely to support our proposals, you know, on the federal level today than they were yesterday.

DEAN BECKER: That was Rob Kampia, director of the Marijuana Policy Project. Next we hear from Congressman Blumenauer.

REPRESENTATIVE EARL BLUMENAUER: Part of what we are seeing is a dramatic shift in public support over the course of the last decade. I personally think that the challenge for Rob and his team is that there will be more opportunities around the country, where these issues are going to move forward. I know having campaigned in Arizona on this this year, there is significant grassroots support in the state. They have a history, but part of the challenge is, there will be other states where people want to move forward, and part of it is picking the spots, because even though it's amazing what they were able to do with five diverse and in some cases very large states, it's very demanding, it's very expensive, and the opposition as Rob says has mobilized. There's been significant sums of money that have been spent that we have not seen on quite the same scale before.

But I think part of the challenge is that this is ripening nationally, and so I think there will be a number of opportunities, and I think the states are going to have to earn that national support, with what they do on the ground to help influence and make it easier for allies to step up and be a part of it.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, this is Dean Becker with Pacifica Radio. You've answered most of my questions, I'm kind of left with this thought. Here in Houston, Harris County, we just elected a sheriff and a district attorney who have basically called for the end of drug war. I want to talk about the ramifications, the Congressman talked about that, the impetus, the growing of this effort. What do you see in the future? How much impact is this going to make on local and state politics around the nation?

ROB KAMPIA: I mean -- this is Rob -- I could speak at least specifically to the situation in Texas, which is the second most populous state. We've been lobbying in Texas for about two years. The legislature meets once every two years, and will be convening in January. There's going to be three bills, there'll be a medical marijuana bill, there'll be a bill to decriminalize possession, and there will be a legalization bill.

There's no question that passing eight out of nine initiatives across the country is going to influence the thinking in a positive direction, and in places like Texas, it's not going to push it over the top, but it will help. I think Texas is in the same boat as a lot of other states around the country that are flirting with reform. They'll certainly pass some kind of reform in the next one to three years, and it's too soon to tell exactly how it's going to shake out this particular legislative session in Texas as well as a bunch of other states.

DEAN BECKER: Again, that was Rob Kampia, director of the Marijuana Policy Project. Next we'll hear from US Congressman Blumenauer.

REPRESENTATIVE EARL BLUMENAUER: I think the groundwork that Rob and his team have done is going to pay dividends rather quickly. The vote in Massachusetts, for instance, and Maine, will I think help grease the skids for what they teed up in Vermont, Rhode Island. I would suspect that you're going to see more local initiatives that are going to be advanced. Having state and in some cases things that happen at the local level is going to help accelerate that progress.

There are a number of communities that have effectively decriminalized already, where it's just, there's no will to continue this draconian approach. And I think it's setting the stage to your fundamental point about the overall war on drugs. I think people are understanding that there have been horrific consequences from this trillion dollars that we've spent over the last forty years, and how we've spent it, and it's not just some of the problems with inequity in the criminal justice system. It's posed problems internationally. We're watching changes take place both in Canada and Mexico.

So I think this is going to lead to an overall reappraisal, and ultimately changing some of these policies on an international level. And I see it's consistent with a slow, steady march of progress, where government catches up with the people.

DEAN BECKER: With the fact we have more than 765,000 sworn police officers in the US, and if they spent half their time over the last 40 years looking for drugs, that's more than 30 billion man-hours wasted looking for that bag of weed. Remember, because of prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.