Leaders of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus (CCC) on Friday announced that they have selected Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) to serve as the fourth co-chair of the bipartisan panel to advance federal legalization.
Mast was one of just three GOP members who voted in favor of a Democratic-led bill to end prohibition and promote social equity in the cannabis industry that passed in the House last week. He will replace the late Rep. Don Young (R-AK), who died last month at the age of 88, as one of two Republican co-chairs of the caucus.
In a statement about the new role and his support for ending federal marijuana prohibition, Mast said that the “Constitution never says ‘cannabis,’ but it does say that unenumerated powers lie with the states.”
“Federal cannabis policy should be based on that Constitutional principle,” he said.
A military veteran who has championed various cannabis reform bills over his time in Congress, Mast is being recognized by his fellow co-chairs as an apt fit 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 of good faith and leadership on strategic and sensible cannabis reform.”
“Not only is Brian a longtime proponent of remedying the unjust consequences of our nation’s 80-year war on cannabis, but as a representative of a medically-legal state, he understands the complexities of both legal and non-legal markets and the necessity for federal reforms that work with—not against—individual states’ needs,” Joyce, who did not vote in favor of the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act last week, said.
“Importantly, he knows all too-well the sacrifices America’s veterans have made and is committed to ensuring their needs are included in both comprehensive and individual reform efforts moving forward,” Joyce said. “Brian serves in Congress as he did on the battlefield, without regard for personal gain or personal sacrifice.”
Following the MORE Act vote, the Democratic Cannabis Caucus co-chairs—Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)—told Marijuana Moment that there’s no reason to suspect that Joyce’s “no” vote meant there was a “problem” with the panel.
“I understand where David was coming from, but in no way are there any indications from anyone that the Cannabis Caucus, because of this, would be in any jeopardy,” Lee said last week.
Mast, in contrast, did back the MORE Act—though he did vote against an amendment that was ultimately defeated to require federal agencies to review security clearance denials going back to 1971 and retroactively make it so cannabis could not be used “as a reason to deny or rescind a security clearance.”
Joyce’s “no” vote on the overall bill didn’t exactly come as 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 attempting to work with the sponsor on revisions, but he also penned an op-ed for Marijuana Moment going into further detail about his stance on the bill ahead of the floor vote.
In any case, Mast has a strong record of supporting marijuana policy reform in Congress.
Beside voting for the MORE Act both last week and when it first went to the floor in 2020, the 41-year-old Mast has also consistently supported legislation to protect all states cannabis programs from federal interference, expand research into marijuana, safeguard banks that work with state-legal cannabis businesses and more. He voted for an amendment aimed at removing roadblocks to research on the benefits of psychedelics.
He’s a cosponsor of a GOP-led bill to federally legalize and regulate marijuana that’s being sponsored by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), as well as a more modest measure to deschedule cannabis from Joyce. Mast has also attached himself to bills from Young to protect gun rights for marijuana consumers and Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL) to prevent the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from denying veterans benefits over state-legal cannabis activities.
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“Brian is distinctively qualified to carry on the torch of Don’s leadership,” Joyce said. “I am pleased to welcome him as my fellow Republican Co-Chair and look forward to continuing the Caucus’ bipartisan work together.”
Blumenauer, for his part, said that “Congress is poised to advance comprehensive reform for the cannabis industry,” and that Mast “brings a valuable perspective in the areas of improving veteran care and making the federal government a partner, not barrier to, cannabis research and industry. I look forward to working with him.”
Lee said that Mast’s “years of advocacy for veterans and experience representing a medically legal state will provide valuable insight.”
“Together, I am confident we can build a broad coalition of support in Congress and finally enact equitable, modern-day federal cannabis policy,” she said.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.