'The prohibition of cannabis has been a failure, and Americans across our nation are demanding a more sensible approach.'

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer helped form the first Congressional Cannabis Caucus on Thursday, Feb. 16.Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer joined fellow congressmen from Alaska, California and Colorado Thursday, Feb. 16, to create the first Congressional Cannabis Caucus.

Blumenauer, a Portland Democrat representing the 3rd Congressional District, is the co-chairman of the caucus with U.S. Reps. Dana Rohrabacher of California, Jared Polis of Colorado and Don Young of Alaska. They sent letters Thursday inviting members of the U.S. House to join the caucus, which will provide a forum for representatives to "discuss, learn and work together to establish a better and more rational approach to federal cannabis policy.

"The prohibition of cannabis has been a failure, and Americans across our nation are demanding a more sensible approach," said Blumenauer. "Following the November election, federal laws are now out of step with 44 states. The time is now to come together and bring the federal government in line with the will of the American people."

Recreational marijuana is legal in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Alaska, California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts. In 18 others states, medical marijuana is legal. Federal laws still classify marijuana as a controlled substance, setting up conflicts with laws in the states. Federal banking rules also make it difficult for marijuana businesses to handle their earnings.

Anthony Johnson of Portland, New Approach Oregon director, said he hoped the new caucus could help "lead the way for important federal legislation, including, tax and banking reform, easing federal research restrictions, allowing military veterans to utilize medical cannabis and respecting states' rights to form their own marijuana laws."

"The Congressional Cannabis Caucus will be an important ally, not just in passing future marijuana law reforms, but also in preventing the federal government from trampling the will of the voters," Johnson said in a statement.

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