In a Zoom call with reporters on Monday, Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D) argued that federal cannabis policies are contributing to the supply chain crisis in the U.S. and to the recent string of violent crimes targeting dispensaries.
In a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Blumenauer urges him to modernize the agency’s policies for commercial class license holders. Blumenauer contends that outdated federal policies have disqualified “tens of thousands of commercial drivers due to past cannabis use” which has contributed to the “unprecedented” supply chain issues facing the nation.
“This crisis must be treated with urgency.” Blumenauer writes in the letter. “Your department should rapidly reform requirements for testing drivers and returning them to service, as well as develop an accurate test for impairment.”
The Transportation Department’s current zero-tolerance policy “sweeps up drivers who were unimpaired, drivers who have not used cannabis for weeks or even months, and drivers who have used federally-legal CBD oils,” Blumenauer contends in the letter.
The Medical Marijuana Research Act, which Blumenauer authored and which passed the House last month, would be an asset to the federal government and researchers seeking to develop tests for cannabis impairment, he said.
“We need to put resources behind coming up with alternative methods of determining impairment. … The federal government, until recently, has interfered with research. We’ve outsourced cannabis research to Canada or to the U.K. or to Israel. We need to get in the game and develop it. … Without federal interference I’m quite confident we could develop technologies to measure impairment quickly – right now we haven’t been able to do it because the federal government has stood in the way, has interfered, and I think that’s criminal.” – Blumenauer during a May 16 press conference
During the Zoom call, Blumenauer described the SAFE Banking Act as “literal life and death,” citing the recent crime targeting dispensaries in some states. He said that the measure’s inclusion as an amendment to a bipartisan Senate bill is an “opportune moment” for cannabis legislation to, finally, pass in the upper chamber.
The measure has passed the House as a standalone measure six times and in the Senate is tacked on to the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, a measure aimed at easing manufacturing and supply chain issues.
The bill, which would overhaul federal banking policies for state-legal cannabis businesses, is a “critically important” tool for ending the rash of recent crimes targeting cannabis businesses, which lack traditional financial services and operate mostly in cash, he explained. Further, he said the legislation would help many smaller operators who can’t absorb the extra costs associated with enhanced security.
Blumenauer described the crimes against dispensaries as a “national epidemic” that the House-approved legislation could help remedy and that violence is “a direct assault against low-income people, people of color, the emerging markets.”
“They are handicapped with the extra costs and security, and I want to solve that problem,” he said. “It’s passed the House six times and now is an opportunity.”
Last week, 24 Senators from both parties sent a letter to Senate Leaders Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) urging them to retain the text of the SAFE Banking Act in the Senate legislation.
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