cannabis politics

Two Former Congress Members Join National Cannabis Reform Group CPEAR

Two Former Congress Members Join National Cannabis Reform Group CPEAR

There’s a turn in the narrative surrounding the use of cannabis. While cannabis enthusiasts have long unfairly been stereotyped as lazy, dumb, and unproductive members of society, the caricatures of cannabis users are starting to fade in these modern times. It’s far more common to see politicians put their support behind cannabis without looking like radical hippies. Bipartisan support for the simple ability to take some rolling papers and light up a joint has exploded in the past few years.

Former politicians are, in fact, now dedicating their days towards marijuana reform in some capacity. Per MJ Biz, two former members of Congress, one Democratic and one Republican, have now joined a national cannabis reform group pushing for federal legalization. Former U.S. Senate majority leader, Democrat Tom Daschle, and retired U.S. House Of Representatives veteran, Republican Greg Waldon, have officially joined the Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation (CPEAR) – a national reform group that advocates for legalization on a federal level.

In a press release, Daschle explained that there’s a need to “end the patchwork system across the country” and force Congress to address the issue of cannabis legalization. He said that CPEAR’s data-based approach “​​provides a comprehensive regulatory framework” to cannabis legalization. The information, research, and data CPEAR’s gathers can help Congress form a better understanding of the need for reform and the need to address the lingering effects that the War On Drugs continues to have on society, Daschle added. 

As for Walden, he said joining the CPEAR provides an excellent opportunity to create a meaningful change within the cannabis industry and Congress. “As former lawmakers, we appreciate the importance of finding realistic opportunities for cooperation and unified action,” he explained. 

Walden and Daschle are no strangers to the cannabis industry, though their stance on the issue of reform has done a 180 over the years. Daschle joined the Board of Advisors for Clever Leaves Holdings Inc. – an international cannabis operation based in his home state of South Dakota. While his connection to the company relates to his relationship with Clever Leaves CEO and co-founder Kyle Detwiler, Daschle’s time in Congress wasn’t entirely progressive. As former Senate majority leader, he put his support behind leaving cannabis under DEA’s Schedule 1 category – classifying cannabis as a drug “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

In an interview with Benzinga in 2020, he said his opinion changed when more states began legalizing cannabis. Describing his mindset as “very pervasive,” he said that the recent research and information presented evidence of “the medicinal advantages, and the opportunities that cannabis provides.” Ultimately, he said the change of tune had little to do with the business deals for Clever Leaves but the impact it could have on the future generations, including his children and grandchildren.

“I’m at a point where I want to do the things I really care about,” he said. “I want to do the things where I think I can still add some value. I want to do some things that could maybe matter for my children, and grandchildren, and for future generations.”

Similarly, Walden has had his moments as a public servant where he pushed back against cannabis reform. Politico reported that in 2014, he voted against a legalization bill that would’ve created reform in his home state of Oregon. Fast forward to 2020, and Walden became a vocal advocate for federal legalization, especially for the sake of comprehensive research. During a 2020 House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on cannabis policies, he explained that more states created regulated markets in the past few years. Yet, there’s minimal research or data available on the scientific benefits of cannabis. 

It seems more promising that legalization at a federal level could occur in the coming years. Daschle and Walden aren’t the only former members of Congress who’ve shifted into the cannabis industry. The National Cannabis Roundtable (NCR) has several members who’ve played integral roles in creating public policy in the past. The NCR includes ex-House Speaker, Republican John Boehner, Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, Obama-era officials Kathleen Sebelius, and former Deputy Attorney General James Cole.

CPEAR consists of a diverse group of stakeholders, academics, industry experts, officials, and more to help create federal guidelines for cannabis reform. They aim to develop responsible and informed policies and protect consumers and patients. CPEAR’s approach considers everything from social equity, substance abuse, and mental health to public safety and tax policies to improve the national framework for cannabis regulations. 

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