By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Nevada’s 1st U.S. House District Rep. Dina Titus, Nevada’s senior member of Congress, said recreational and medical marijuana businesses across the nation could be helped by the Democratically-dominated U.S. House in 2019.
Titus, D-Las Vegas, is a member of the bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus and said that group will focus on connecting marijuana businesses to the banking system.
Ten states, including Nevada, currently allow for recreational marijuana and 33 states, including Utah, allow for medical marijuana.
“We are trying to get this business treated like any other business when it comes to banking and taxes,” said Titus, who taught Nevada and U.S. government classes for 30 years at UNLV.
National banks currently turn away marijuana-related business because marijuana is still listed as a Schedule 1 drug in the U.S., the same listing as heroin. Banks fear federal criminal prosecution if they do business with the marijuana industry.
Titus, however, is confident the Democratic majority in the U.S. House could change that situation.
“We have had several amendments to try to get it done (before) and every time, we get a few more votes,” she said. “I think we will get it out of the House this time because most of those votes are Democrats, not all of them, but most.”
The wording of a marijuana bill would need to be carefully composed, Titus said.
“Some people see it as a criminal justice issue,” she said. “Some see it as a states rights issue. Some look at it just as a business and some are just old hippies who just want to get stoned.
“So you’ve to to be careful how you frame it,” she said.
Titus agreed when host Sam Shad said the tipping point for the nationwide legalization of marijuana could be when the federal government realizes the tax revenue it is missing
Nevada, for example, collected almost $70 million in taxes in the first year of legal recreational pot sales.
“No question about it,” Titus said. “We have to be careful that the federal government doesn’t swoop in and take the tax money because states really depend on that as we move in this direction.
“It will reach a tipping point,” Titus continued. “You are already halfway there. But it will put pressure on more members of Congress to loosen up some of those restrictions.”
The Congressional Cannabis Caucus will also seek to get the Veterans Administration to ease its stance on medical marijuana. Currently, the VA cannot prescribe or condone medical marijuana use because it is a Schedule 1 drug. Veterans, however, cannot lose their veterans benefits for using medical marijuana on their own, according to VA policy.
“We are trying to get the VA to let you use, perhaps marijuana, in place of opioids,” she said, referring to pain medications.
Titus, a member of the House Infrastructure and Transportation Committee, hopes for progress on the Interstate-11 project that would connect Las Vegas and Phoenix.
“For Nevada, we are certainly concerned about I-11,” she said. “We have got it authorized. Now we’ve got to get it funded. I think the first leg needs to be from here (Las Vegas) to Phoenix. We are the only two metropolitan cities in the country not connected by the interstate. (After that is completed) then you go from there (Phoenix) to the Mexican border and then up to Reno. So let’s get that first leg done.”
Titus sees more cooperation with the new Arizona congressional delegation.
“They (Arizona officials) are in the process of doing environmental impact studies, so it is not like they have done nothing,” Titus said.