A powerful ally of the marijuana industry: Q&A With Congressman Earl Blumenauer

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By John Schroyer

Earl Blumenauer is an Oregon congressman. Yet he’s traveled to places such as Maine to help pass marijuana legalization initiatives in several states this fall.

Blumenauer, a longtime marijuana advocate, recently took time to discuss national cannabis politics with Marijuana Business Daily.

Voters in nearly a dozen states may be voting in November on whether to legalize recreational or medical marijuana. The results could have enormous implications for the marijuana industry at both the state and national levels.

Blumenauer – a Democrat from a state where recreational and medical marijuana are legal –  is going out of his way to help sway the upcoming elections. Last month, for example, he appeared in Las Vegas on behalf of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the group spearheading a Nevada ballot measure to legalize recreational cannabis.

Looking ahead to the fall, Blumenauer is for the most part bullish on the prospects for legalization.

Why the campaign stop in Nevada?

The Nevada campaign is an interesting one. It’s a very pivotal state. And it’s going to get a lot of attention this year, because half of the state’s congressional delegation is involved in competitive races. There’s also a competitive U.S. Senate race, and it’s a swing state presidentially. Also, some 50 million people come to Nevada every year – about 4 million a month go through Las Vegas. So if (recreational cannabis) wins in Nevada, it’s going to have a very profound impact. People from all over the country would be exposed to legal adult-use marijuana.

What else are you doing on behalf of legalization?

I’m planning on helping each of the state campaigns. I’ve already been meeting with people in California and in Maine. I’m going to be in Massachusetts. The Florida campaign is medical, but it’s huge. If it’s successful, it’ll be the second largest marijuana market in the country (after California). I’m also planning on doing some work in Arizona.

Up to 11 states across the country could be voting on legalization ballot measures, for either rec or medical. Care to offer any predictions? 

I’m quite optimistic. I don’t want to give away any campaign secrets. But based on the work that I’ve done and the research I’ve reviewed, these campaigns – at this point – are ahead in every single state.

But that’s no guarantee that’s where we’re going to end up. Donald Trump could be the next president. But in California I think it’s going to pass overwhelmingly. I think we get MMJ in Florida. It got 58% in a non-presidential election (in 2014). And this year, based on the surveys that I’ve heard of and seen, it’s in the 70’s. I think it’s very strong in Maine. I suspect the medical marijuana initiative in Missouri is a pretty good bet. If there’s only one ballot measure in Arkansas, I think that passes.

All the other state campaigns are in the safety zone. They can pass if the people who care about it are willing to step up, if they’re willing to donate, if they’re willing to campaign, and if they’re willing to pin down elected officials. Massachusetts is going to be harder than people think. Unfortunately, there’s a Republican governor and some Democratic politicians who are against it. But there’s public support, and it’s doable. Nevada is a horse race. But it could pass there and in Arizona.

What kind of ramifications will there be in Washington DC if there are a number of cannabis victories across the country in November?

It really helps us. The ballot measures have forced a number of people to look at it. Maybe they were people who didn’t philosophically support it. But for us to be able to show them – ‘Marijuana is more popular in your district than you are,’ – that makes a difference. And we’ve worked very hard to make sure this not be a partisan issue.

I think we’re going to have an administration that’s going to continue to be supportive and does not get in the way. I think you’re most likely going to have Democratic control of the Senate. I think the stage is set to get across the finish line in the next Congress. I think we fix banking. I think we fix the unfair taxation. I think we fix the research prohibition.

You sound very optimistic.

I think in five years this game’s over. Medical marijuana will be available to people in every state, and most states will be treating marijuana like they treat alcohol. The train has left the station, if we all do our job this year.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

John Schroyer can be reached at johns@mjbizdaily.com