Congressional Cannabis Caucus Appoints New GOP Co-Chair Who Voted for Federal Marijuana Legalization Last Week


Leaders of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus (CCC) announced Friday that they have selected Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) to serve as the fourth co-chair of the bipartisan panel tasked with advancing federal legalization.

Mast was one of only three GOP members to vote in favor of a Democratic-led bill to end prohibition and promote social fairness in the cannabis industry that passed in the Room last week. He will replace the late Rep. Don Young (R-AK), who died last month at age 88, as one of two Republican caucus co-chairs.

In a statement about the new role and his support for ending federal marijuana prohibition, Mast said “the Constitution never says ‘cannabis,’ but it does say unenumerated powers belong to the states.”

“Federal cannabis policy should be based on this constitutional principle,” he said.

A military veteran who championed various cannabis reform bills during his tenure in Congress, Mast is recognized by his co-chairs as a suitable candidate to join the caucus leadership. His GOP counterpart, Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH), said in a press release that the congressman “has established a reputation for good faith and leadership in strategic, sensible cannabis reform.”

“Not only is Brian a longtime supporter of redressing the unjust consequences of our country’s 80-year war on cannabis, but as a representative of a forensic state, he understands the complexities of legal markets and not laws and the need for federal reforms that work with — not against — the needs of individual states,” Joyce, who did not vote in favor of the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Wipeout Act (MORE) last week, mentioned.

“Most importantly, he knows all too well the sacrifices made by American veterans and is committed to ensuring that their needs are included in both global and individual reform efforts,” Joyce said. “Brian serves in Congress as he did on the battlefield, with no regard for personal gain or personal sacrifice.”

Following the passage of the MORE Act, the co-chairs of the Democratic Cannabis Caucus—Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) told Marijuana Moment there was no reason to suspect that Joyce’s “no” vote meant there was a “problem” with the panel.

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“I understand where David was coming from, but no one is in any way indicating that the Cannabis Caucus, because of this, would be in danger,” Lee said last week.

Mast, on the other hand, supported the MORE Act – although he voted against an amendment that was ultimately defeated to require federal agencies to review security clearance denials dating back to 1971 and ensure that cannabis cannot be used “as a reason to deny or revoke a security clearance.

Joyce’s “no” vote on the entire bill didn’t come as much of a surprise. Not only did his office circulate a letter to other GOP offices ahead of a House Rules Committee hearing on the bill, outlining the reasons for his opposition after trying to work with the sponsor on the revisions, but he also wrote an op-ed for Marijuana Moment going into more detail about his position on the bill ahead of the floor vote.

Either way, Mast has a strong record of supporting marijuana policy reform in Congress.

As well as voting for the MORE Act last week and when first introduced in 2020, the 41-year-old Mast also has always supported legislation to protect all state cannabis programs against federal interference, expanding marijuana research, backup banks that work with state legal cannabis businesses and more. He voted for an amendment to deletion obstacles to research on the benefits of psychedelics.

He is a co-sponsor of a GOP-led bill to legalize and regulate marijuana federally, sponsored by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), as well as a smaller measure to delist cannabis from Joyce. Mast also attached himself to bills by Young to protect the gun rights of marijuana users and Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL) to stop the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from denying veterans combatants the benefits of state-legal cannabis activities.

“Brian is uniquely qualified to take over the leadership torch from Don,” Joyce said. “I am pleased to welcome him as Republican Co-Chair and look forward to continuing the bipartisan caucus work together.”

Blumenauer, for his part, said “Congress is poised to advance comprehensive reform of the cannabis industry,” and that Mast “brings valuable perspective into the areas of improving veteran care.” and to make the federal government a partner, not an obstacle, to cannabis research and industry. I look forward to working with him.”

Lee said “Mast’s years of advocacy for veterans and his experience in representing a medically legal state will provide valuable insight.”

“Together, I’m confident we can build a broad coalition of support in Congress and finally enact a fair and modern federal cannabis policy,” she said.

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Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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