IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Curbelo Discusses His Views on Federal Marijuana Policy on “Cannabis Economy”
Recently, Representative Carlos Curbelo (FL-26) joined the “Cannabis Economy” podcast to discuss his views on federal marijuana policy. Curbelo discussed how he became engaged on the issue, his introduction of the Small Business Tax Equity Act of 2017, his opposition to the Attorney General’s witch hunt on legal, state-regulated cannabis businesses, and his support for different appropriations amendments that would modernize federal cannabis laws.
“These amendments are about federalism,” Curbelo said. “They’re about state’s rights, they’re about the federal government staying out of state affairs and the fact is that we have dozens of states in this country, including mine, Florida, where 71% of voters voted to amend the constitution to allow medical marijuana, and those states are sovereign and the people of those states are sovereign and they should be treated as such. So, because the federal government still has an irrational policy set when it comes to marijuana, cannabis, that’s why we support these appropriations amendments that would defund any enforcement action having to do with, in one case with medical marijuana, in the other case, adult use of marijuana, in states that have approved it.”
Curbelo has been a consistent advocate to reform our nation’s cannabis policies. He introduced the Small Business Tax Equity Act of 2017, H.R. 1810, last year with Representative Earl Blumenauer (OR–3) to amend Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code and allow marijuana businesses operating in compliance with state law to utilize common tax deductions and credits. Section 280E currently prohibits businesses that sell Schedule I or Schedule II substances from deducting legitimate expenses from their taxes. Congress added this prohibition in 1982 after a drug dealer claimed expenses associated with selling narcotics as legitimate business expenses. Curbelo is also an original co-sponsor of the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, which ensures that each State has the right to determine for itself the best approach to marijuana within its borders.
In the 2016 elections, the State of Florida voted overwhelming with 71.3% to legalize the use of medical marijuana. The two counties that comprise Florida’s 26th Congressional District, Monroe and Miami-Dade, voted in favor of the measure 80.3% and 68.3%, respectively.
A partial transcript of Curbelo’s exchange is available below and audio of the podcast is available here.
Curbelo Discusses His Views on Federal Marijuana Policy on “Cannabis Economy”
June 4, 2018
Cannabis Economy’s Seth Adler: “As far as Carlos Curbelo is concerned, way back in January, when the attorney general rescinded the Cole Memos, what was your reaction?”
Representative Carlos Curbelo: “Extreme disappointment. I had a lot of faith that the President wanted to keep his promise during the campaign, that he would leave this issue to the states, which is where it belongs. And I wouldn’t say I was necessarily surprised, given the Attorney General’s history on the issue and his past statements, but many people are under the impression that he acted unilaterally and really without any strong supporter indications from the White House.”
Adler: “So many people like me or many people here in Washington?”
Curbelo: “Here in Washington too. I mean there is a strong bipartisan majority here in the Congress that rejects that decision and that supports rational policies regarding marijuana.”
Adler: “Some of those are the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, you have signed on to that; the McClintock-Polis amendment, you have signed onto that. Just share with us your thoughts regarding those amendments, one which is in place, one which will hopefully be.”
Curbelo: “Well these amendments are about federalism. They’re about state’s rights, they’re about the federal government staying out of state affairs and the fact is that we have dozens of states in this country, including mine, Florida, where 71% of voters voted to amend the constitution to allow medical marijuana, and those states are sovereign and the people of those states are sovereign and they should be treated as such. So, because the federal government still has an irrational policy set when it comes to marijuana, cannabis, that’s why we support these appropriations amendments that would defund any enforcement action having to do with, in one case with medical marijuana, in the other case, adult use of marijuana, in states that have approved it.”
Adler: “You are not only supporting states’ rights in your conversation that you’re having with me but you are demonstrating a level of knowledge that not necessarily many Members of Congress have. Why is this an issue that you care about beyond the states’ rights?”
Curbelo: “Well, I got into this issue from a tax angle. I’m on the Ways and Means Committee, that’s the committee that handles all tax policy here on the House side, and Section 280E first caught my attention. I said, ‘How come if you are a legal, licensed business in a state, the federal tax code discriminates against you by not allowing you to deduct your business expenses?’ So that was my foray into this marijuana issue, and for a long time that’s all I was focused on, but as I learned more about the issue I decided to become active more broadly in all of the different laws that address marijuana in the United States. And that’s why I took these positions, and I really believe that the more we educate members here on both sides, but especially on the Republican side where we have more room for growth, the more we educate members, the more will sign on to these commonsense changes to the law that will actually help us regulate this substance, keep it away from children, which no one wants to see, and put all the illegal drug dealers out of business.
“So this is such an obvious issue, and I really think we’re just so close to having a major breakthrough here where a bipartisan majority is allowed to act in favor of a more logical policy set.”
Adler: “We’re on the precipice of a major breakthrough – is that specific or is that a general feeling that you have?”
Curbelo: “I’d say it’s a general feeling, but I think the Attorney General’s action in January has actually helped strengthen our coalition here and has drawn a lot of attention to the issue. And a lot of Republicans, mostly libertarian-leaning and centrist Republicans, are now speaking up, and saying, ‘A lot of us haven’t focused on this issue in the past, but now there is an urgency and we want to do the right thing by so many states and so many voters who have made a choice – by so many patients throughout this country that rely on some of these products for their wellbeing.’ We’re learning more and more about potential benefits every day. The opioid crisis in the United States is a hot topic here in Congress, and it turns out there are some studies that are now showing that medical marijuana can be an off ramp for those who are addicted to opioids.
“So people are learning so much here every day. I’ve had a lot of one of one conversations… but more and more Members are paying attention to this issue and more and more they are signing on to some of these ideas that make sense.”