Congressional marijuana champion Blumenauer to retire

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One of cannabis reform’s staunchest advocates in Congress plans to retire.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who has represented Portland, Oregon, and local environs in the House of Representatives since 1996, said this week he will not seek reelection next year.

“It is a difficult decision. Particularly after the amazing success of the last several years,” Blumenauer, 75, said in a late Monday news release.

“But simply said, it is time to continue my life’s mission without the burden of day-to-day politics.”

Blumenauer’s retirement was first reported by Willamette Week.

A former Portland City Council member and bicycle advocate with a penchant for bow ties, Blumenauer spent nearly 50 years in public office.

But he became nationally known over the past decade for his consistent and outspoken support of federal marijuana reform.

Blumenauer co-sponsored a pivotal federal budget amendment that protected state-legal medical marijuana businesses from U.S. Department of Justice interference.

And along with Republicans, Blumenauer co-founded the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, where he pushed for ambitious federal legalization as well as more modest federal banking reform – the latter of which passed Democratic-controlled Congresses multiple times.

It’s not immediately clear who might succeed Blumenauer to represent Oregon’s 3rd District in Congress.

But while he was once one of a handful of pro-marijuana reform voices in Congress, Blumenauer is now part of a large bipartisan chorus that includes moderate and far-right Republicans as well as progressive and mainstream Democrats.

“Congressman Earl Blumenauer is the most important champion for reforming cannabis laws at the federal level in the last thirty years,” Michael Bronstein, the president of the American Trade Association for Cannabis & Hemp, said in a statement.

“Nobody has done it for longer and nobody was more impactful in marshalling support for cannabis reform,” he added.

“While Congressman Blumenauer will be sorely missed as a legislator, we take confidence that his legacy in Congress as a cannabis champion is forever secure.”