Marijuana reform advocates announced on Wednesday that they’ll be holding a policy forum inside the U.S. Capitol Building on the unofficial cannabis holiday 4/20 that will feature speakers including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
The National Cannabis Policy Summit’s Congressional Forum, hosted in the Capitol Visitors Center’s Congressional Auditorium, will bring together advocates, experts, lawmakers, stakeholders and patients for a discussion on the need for federal reform with a focus on promoting equity.
While pro-legalization festivals and forums have been held outside of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. in April in recent years, this policy-centric event—details of which were shared exclusively with Marijuana Moment ahead of the announcement—will be the first of its kind to take place inside the Capitol Building, a sign of the normalization of marijuana issues as more states have enacted legalization and the pressure for federal reform continues to build.
Further underscoring that normalization is the fact that top congressional lawmakers will attend and speak at the event. Schumer is the most high profile legislator to be scheduled to appear, likely discussing his efforts to end federal prohibition while negotiating a deal to enact modest cannabis reforms related to banking and expungements this session.
Also speaking at the event will be Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Dave Joyce (R-OH), Nancy Mace (R-SC) and Brian Mast (R-FL).
“We are thrilled to bring the National Cannabis Policy Summit’s Congressional Forum to the Capitol Building during this critical time for cannabis policy reform,” Caroline Phillips, founder of the National Cannabis Policy Summit, said in a press release. “To sit inside the Capitol Building and hear directly from the Members of Congress making the policy decisions shows just how far we’ve come as a country in reimagining drug policy, and on April 20th, we’ll have a chance to discuss how much farther we need to go.”
The congressional event is being held two days ahead of the 7th annual National Cannabis Festival, which will take place at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
As the legalization movement has spread, 4/20 has become more than a celebration of cannabis culture, with lawmakers and government officials—as well as major brands and celebrities—across the country using the symbolic day to push for marijuana reform.
Schumer used the holiday as an opportunity to reaffirm his commitment to ending prohibition in the past, including in speech on the Senate floor in 2021.
He also spoke about his “promise” to introduce his much-anticipated legalization bill during last year’s National Cannabis Policy Summit, held the week of 4/20. The majority leader fulfilled that promise over the summer, though the legislation did not end up advancing.
The chances of enacting comprehensive legalization this session remain in doubt, especially given that Republicans took back control of the House after last year’s election, but there are hopes that marijuana banking and expungements legislation could still pass in the divided Congress.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden granted a mass pardon last year for people who’ve committed federal cannabis possession offenses and directed an administrative review into marijuana scheduling.
The head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said recently that he doesn’t expect the agency to complete its scientific assessment of cannabis by 4/20, though he has shared marijuana news at exactly 4:20 PM on several occasions. (Full Story)