Issue: House Democrats are continuing their push to relax Federal restrictions on cannabis through the appropriations process. This week, the House will consider H.R. 3055, The Departments of Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies [Commerce, Justice, Science, Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, Interior, Environment, Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development] Appropriations Act. Members submitted 11 cannabis-related amendments to this “minibus” that combines some of the traditional 12 annual appropriations bills. With the House in GOP hands and former Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) holding the gavel, the Rules Committee had blocked cannabis-related amendments from the House Floor since 2015.
Impact: The highest profile amendment is offered by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Tom McClintock (R-CA). The amendment would prohibit the Department of Justice from interfering with state cannabis programs, similar to an amendment offered by former Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in 2015 that failed by 9 votes. Notably, Republican supporters of this amendment were instrumental in ensuring that it did not apply to Washington, D.C. or Federal territories. They insisted on their exclusion because their support for the amendment is based on 10th Amendment protection of states’ rights. However, excluding D.C. and territories could result in Democrats voting against the amendment. Progressives in the Senate are already signaling their opposition to a similar bill, The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, sponsored by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO). Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) have criticized the bill because it does not remove
cannabis as a Schedule I drug and lacks expungement and resentencing for marijuana crimes.
Next Steps: The House Rules Committee will meet at 5:00 p.m. tomorrow to consider amendments. While it is possible the House passes the full appropriations bill on Friday, consideration may extend into next week, just as the minibus covering Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education continued into this week. Further, some of the amendments may be found out of order and not make it to a vote, although current Chairman James McGovern (D-MA) has said that he will generally not impede cannabis amendments. Any spending bills must also be reconciled with the Senate, where cannabis legislation faces stronger opposition.
More information, below:
The following amendments were filed with the House Rules Committee:
• The Blumenauer/McClintock amendment would prohibit the Department of Justice (DOJ) from interfering with state cannabis programs.
• An amendment by Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA) would transfer $100,000 within the Food & Drug Administration to utilize the Health Hazard Evaluation process to make lawful a safe level for conventional foods and dietary supplements containing Cannabidiol (CBD) so long as the products are compliant with all other FDA rules and regulations.
• An amendment by Rep. Blumenauer would prohibit the DOJ from interfering with tribal medical cannabis programs.
• An amendment by Rep. Blumenauer would prohibit the DOJ from interfering with tribal cannabis programs in states with cannabis programs.
• An amendment by Rep. Blumenauer would prohibit the DOJ from interfering with tribal cannabis programs.
• An amendment by Rep. Blumenauer would prohibit the DOJ from interfering with Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare providers who choose to recommend medical cannabis to their patients in states with medical cannabis programs.
• An amendment by Rep. Blumenauer would prohibit the VA from interfering with a veteran’s participation in a state medical cannabis program, denying a veteran who participates in a state medical cannabis program from being denied VA services, and interfering with the ability of VA health care providers to recommend participation in state medical cannabis programs.
• An amendment by Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-VI) would add the U.S. Virgin Islands to the list of jurisdictions in which Federal interference with implementation of local law authorizing the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana is prohibited. The Virgin Islands were inadvertently left out of the underlying bill’s existing medical cannabis protection provisions.
• An amendment by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) would have prohibited DOJ funds from being used to prohibit states and localities from establishing and implementing “safe consumption sites.” The DOJ is currently suing to stop a proposed facility from opening in Philadelphia. This amendment was withdrawn.
• An amendment by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) would transfer $30 million from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to the DOJ’s Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Program in keeping with the growing consensus to treat drug addiction as a public health issue. This still leaves the DEA with $60 million more than in FY19 and with $47.7 million more than under the President’s budget request.
• An amendment by Rep. Glen Grothman (R-WI) would prohibit benefits administered by the Department of Agriculture (USDA)—food stamps and other nutrition assistance programs—until the Secretary of Agriculture could certify that all persons receiving benefits have passed a drug test. Even if ruled in order, the amendment will not pass.
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