Congressman Blumenauer argues for marijuana legalization on campus

May 6, 2016, 1:45 a.m.

Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer spoke about the legalization of marijuana in a visit to Stanford this week, asserting that current federal marijuana policy has been destructive to citizens who would benefit from access to medical marijuana and to government regulation of the drug.

“We have ruined lives for people using a substance that is less dangerous than tobacco,” he said.

Earl Blumenauer (SHERIDAN REA/The Stanford Daily)
Earl Blumenauer (SHERIDAN REA/The Stanford Daily)

Blumenauer added that current federal policy regarding marijuana is ill-planned and wasteful, contending that there needs to be strong research with good tests so that people can use marijuana safely.

“The “stranglehold” on legal marijuana research prevents the public from recognizing the difference between marijuana and other Schedule 1 drugs, such as cocaine and heroin,” he said. “The main studies will focus on harm reduction.”

The Drug Enforcement Agency classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning that it has high potential for harm and no therapeutic benefit. However, the Congressman claimed that marijuana is less addictive than the standard Schedule 1 drug, and that no one dies from a marijuana overdose. Currently, there is only one plantation in Mississippi used for legal marijuana research, and it is tightly controlled by the DEA.

When asked if marijuana was a gateway drug, Blumenauer responded that “the prohibition of marijuana is a gateway.”

“The people who claim that confuse a connection with causation” he asserted, going on to claim that since marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug, people assume that other Schedule 1 drugs are not harmful. Additionally, he said, drug dealers prey on gullible children while offering them drugs.

“The prohibition of marijuana is a gateway,” he said. “No 12-year-old has his or her identification checked when they buy it from a drug dealer. A drug dealer has every incentive to say, ‘here kid, you like this? Why don’t you try this pill? Or snort this?’”

Blumenauer said that the money spent on marijuana regulation goes straight to “drug cartels and underground forces.” He then went on to say that a lot of money is wasted keeping people in jail for marijuana offenses.

“We’re spending billions of dollars now with people in jail for things that are no longer illegal – by taxing, regulating, not wasting money on failed prohibition, we save money on the front end and raise money on the other,” he argued.

Federal legalization, he claimed, would therefore make at least a 100 billion dollars impact in its first 10 years of implementation.

“One of the things that I feel really strongly about is that it’s immoral that anybody in this country that is addicted to cigarettes, cocaine, alcohol, lottery tickets – anybody who is struggling with addictive behavior –should not be able to get therapy and treatment,” he said.

According to a recent Drug Administration survey, Blumenauer added, 58 percent of adults feel adult use of marijuana should be legal.

Blumenauer worked to pass the Veterans Equal Access Act, which requires the Secretary of Veteran Affairs to authorize employed physicians and other healthcare specialists to discuss and prescribe medical marijuana to veterans.

“Prohibiting a veteran from being able to work with their own personal physician, the one who knows them best…I think is really short-sighted and unfair,” he said

Blumenauer stated that veterans face some of the most distressing physical and mental challenges of any US citizen, especially those who returned from the Middle East.

He stated that veterans would be better off with medical marijuana than opioids, which lead to veteran suicide.

Another policy that the congressman is working on is the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, which would allow farmers to grow hemp in the US.

“Our founding fathers were plantation owners; George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, they grew hemp – I mean they must be spinning in their graves,” he said in regards to the prohibition of hemp.

All hemp in the United States is imported, as it is illegal for farmers to grow hemp here.

Blumenauer says that current legislation regarding hemp is “foolish.”

“You cannot smoke enough hemp to get a high – the THC level is infinitesimal.”

The Congressman has introduced several bills regarding marijuana use, including the Marijuana Tax Revenue Act, Clean Slate for Marijuana Offenses Act, Small Business Tax Equity Ac and MAILS Act. He has been working on marijuana policy for over 30 years. He decriminalized marijuana in Oregon, making it the first state to do so.

Currently, there are four U.S. states, along with the District of Columbia, that have legalized marijuana use, and California recently introduced a measure on legalization to be placed on the ballot in November.


Contact Gillian Brassil at [email protected].

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