The NCSL Blog


By Danielle Dean

NCSL Law, Criminal Justice, and Public Safety staff met with one of the legislative directors behind a newly-created bipartisan House Cannabis Caucus.

Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska) speaks Feb. 16 as congressmen Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) look on.  The group announced the formation of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. (via Earl Blumenauer/YouTube)The four House lawmakers: Don Young (R-Alaska), Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.),  Jared Polis (D-Colo.), and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) created the caucus to address federal-state marijuana policy and to bring federal law into alignment with state practice.

The cannabis caucus will function as an education forum for members to discuss cannabis-related issues, and also aim to align federal laws with the growing trend in the states to legalize marijuana either as medicinal, recreational, or both.

Rohrabacher, one of the co-founders of the cannabis caucus, has sponsored H.R. 975 the “Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017," currently sitting in the House Judiciary and House Energy and Commerce Committees. The bill would exempt from the Controlled Substances Act, “any person acting in compliance with state laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration or deliver of marijuana”.

Caucus members will also look to include Sec. 542 into 2017 appropriations language, similar to what was found in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016. Section 542 prohibits the Department of Justice from withholding funds from designated states as a means to prevent states from implementing their own medical marijuana laws.

On the agenda may also be to clarify a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on individuals and businesses ‘strict compliance’ standard under the Section 542 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act. The ruling allows for individuals and businesses to be covered from federal prosecution under the Controlled Substances Act so long as the individual or business was in strict compliance with their state marijuana law.

For questions on the caucus or NCSL’s federal-state marijuana policy, contact Susan Frederick and Danielle Dean.

NCSL routinely tracks the state activity on this issue, including resources such as our Marijuana Deep Dive page, Marijuana Decriminalization and Penalties Overview and Tables on State Medical Marijuana/Cannabis Program Laws.

 A total of 28 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico now allow for comprehensive public medical marijuana and cannabis programs. Eight states and the District of Columbia now have legalized small amounts of marijuana for adult recreational use. For questions regarding state marijuana policy, please contact Karmen Hanson and Donna Lyons.

Danielle Dean was a senior policy specialist with NCSL's Law, Criminal Justice, and Public Safety Committee.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.