Florida Representative Matt Gaetz is a newcomer to Congress. He is one of the most vocal supporters for federal marijuana law reform. He’s taking on the government on multiple fronts to make reform happen.
Representative Gaetz doesn’t have support from GOP leadership, making his efforts difficult, according to Forbes. The Congressman is pushing for expanded research, he advocates for states’ rights and is also advocating for a reclassification of marijuana. Republicans in Congress have repeatedly blocked marijuana-related amendments from even receiving a vote.
The Republicans have blocked the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment from remaining in place and are pushing against expansions of research. The Congressional Republicans have also blocked efforts allowing veterans access to medical marijuana.
Gaetz is planning to put more pressure on House Leadership so that reform can happen. He is looking to President Trump for support and to hold up his campaign promises of protecting states’ rights.
Gaetz said, “We need presidential leadership. President Trump made a commitment during the campaign to support medical marijuana, and we need the president to continue to be a force for good on this issue.”
The congressman says that support for marijuana law reform is mostly generational.
He said, “Many millennials voted for the president because they believed he was a new type of Republican on the marijuana issue. The most dispositive factor in determining whether or not someone is likely to support cannabis reform is their age, not t heir party affiliation. It’s hard to find Republicans under the age of 40 that oppose medical marijuana research.”
One positive step forward was House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s pledge to help make research on medical marijuana easier. Scientists have complained for decades that the CSA status of Schedule I continues to keep barriers in place that aren’t there for researching other drugs.
Gaetz said, “Chairman Goodlatte has made a commitment that we will liberalize access to medical marijuana for research purposes in universities and medical facilities. It’s my view that that cannot occur in a world in which the federal government takes the position that cannabis has no medical value. So in my mind, Chairman Goodlatte has committed to remove cannabis from the list of Schedule I drugs.”
When Congressman Gaetz’s amendment to force Attorney General Sessions to study the benefits of medical marijuana for police officers, Goodlatte’s support and commitment was introduced. Goodlatte did request that the amendment be withdrawn, in an effort to work on broader expansions of research.
Gaetz has now pulled two amendments hoping that Goodlatte’s office would hold up its end of the commitment.
Gaetz said, “That frustration continues to grow because as I sit here two weeks from that commitment, the Judiciary staff hasn’t produced the first word of legislative text to fulfill the chairman’s commitment.”
Gaetz was one of the driving forces that helped Florida pass its limited medical marijuana program.
He said, “In Florida I’ve made promises to families enduring very complicated medical situations that I would fight for them, and I don’t feel relieved of that commitment just because I’ve been elected to Congress. Much of the work I’ve done in Florida to liberalize access to medical cannabis will be for naught if we don’t create broader research opportunities and a clinical environment in which cannabis treatments can be administered When you work together with families on legislation that’s helped them, helped their children, helped their parents and grandparents, you create bonds with people. And those bonds are enduring.”
Although there will still be ups and downs, Gaetz remains optimistic.
He said, “It is not a matter of if but when medical cannabis readily accessible to every American. My hope is that we set up a truly clinical paradigm to give people confidence in the medicine they take. Right now, the barriers to research really limit our ability to have the best healthcare outcomes. That’s ludicrous.”