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Marijuana legalization goes mainstream with forum in Capitol complex

Stephanie Akin, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Cannabis industry investors, business owners and legalization advocates had met before to discuss the legal and regulatory headaches of operating in a world that is licensed and regulated by states but is illegal under federal law.

But what made those at Tuesday's gathering describe it as a public relations milestone was its location: inside the Capitol complex.

Ohio Republican Rep. David Joyce, one of several members of Congress who dropped in throughout the day, said it was significant because people still have "the wrong idea" about the industry.

"They still think of it as some arcane, three guys in the woods growing marijuana," he said. "Here you get to see that there are actually good people who have done hard work and research and are bringing cannabis forward as a medicine."

Joyce is a co-sponsor of the STATEs Act, which would amend drug laws so marijuana provisions no longer apply to individuals acting in compliance with state or tribal laws. The bill is one of a number of measures attracting growing support in recent years as the marijuana legalization movement has become more mainstream.

With medical marijuana legal in 33 states, and 10 of them also allowing recreational use, advocates are increasing pressure on Congress to remove federal barriers that have restrained the rapidly growing industry.


"This is a place that moves glacially slow," Joyce said. "When it comes to cannabis, I finally see some movement."

The forum Tuesday, presented by the House Cannabis Caucus and the KCSA communications firm, highlighted pressure points for the cannabis industry addressed in pending legislation, including barriers to farming, banking and medical research.

It was supposed to be held in the auditorium of the Capitol Visitors Center, but at the last minute was moved to a more nondescript meeting room downstairs because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi needed the auditorium for a classified briefing on Iran.

The event coincided with the National Cannabis Industry Association's 9th annual Lobby Days, a three-day event that was expected to attract industry leaders from around the country to Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers and their staffs.


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