House votes to restrain federal cannabis enforcement

Posted on June 26th, 2019 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .

capitolBuilding on longstanding policy that bars federal cannabis enforcement in medical marijuana states, the House of Representatives passed a measure that would instate a similar hands-off approach to enforcement in states that have generally legalized. Other measures would slash funding for the DEA, and call upon the FDA to promulgate regs for CBD.

The past week has seen a flurry of cannabis-related legislation in the US House of Representatives—including a measure that would effectively force the Drug Enforcement Administration to honor state-level legalization policies.

The amendment passed June 20 would block the Justice Department from using funds for enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states or territories that have legalized cannabis. The rider to a general appropriations bill was sponsored by representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC). It would also apply to the District of Columbia, where voters approved a limited legalization program in 2014.

A separate measure was also passed that would similarly restrict federal enforcement on Native American tribal lands where cannabis has been legalized.

These measures build on a restriction renewed by Congress every year since 2014 on use of funds by the Justice Department to interferie in state medical marijuana programs. As Marijuana Moment website notes, the language of the broader amendment stipulates that federal law enforcement agencies cannot use funds to prevent states and territories "from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana."

While the measure may face a tough fight in the Senate and then the prospect of a Trump veto, its passage by a healthy 267-to-165 still represents a landmark. An effort to pass such a measure last year failed when the bill died in committee.

DEA funding to be cut?
Also approved was a measure that would divert some funding for the Drug Enforcement Administration. Introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY),  the amendment would transfer $5 million from the DEA to opioid treatment programs. It passed without opposition on a voice vote, as Marijuana Moment reports.

"I offer this amendment because ending the war on drugs has to mean changing our priorities in order to keep all communities safe and healthy," Ocasio-Cortez said. "The best way we do that is by offering people the help and support they need before arrest and criminalization should be considered in the first place."

She emphasized that even with her diversion, the DEA would still receive $2.36 billion—which is $90 million higher than was appropriated for the last fiscal year, and about $78 million higher than President Trump asked for in his budget request.

Another approved amendment, introduced by Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA), calls upon the Food & Drug Administration to finally promulgate regulations for CBD products, addressing a dilemma that has been outstanding since hemp-derived CBD wad legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill. The amendment instructs the FDA to "undertake a 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."

Vets have to wait

Failing to pass, alas, was a measure that would have helped military veterans access medical marijuana. The measure sought to allow Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend cannabis in medical marijuana states, but was pulled from a vote in the face of opposition. Sponsor Blumenauer, who is co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, stated on the House floor that "the VA has not been as helpful as it should be" in aiding veterans seeking medical cannabis as an alternative treatment for issues including chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder, instead of highly addictive opioids and other drugs."

Blumenauer later told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview that the VA "blindsided" lawmakers by issuing a statement while the measure was under debate, arguing that their physicians "would have been professionally liable" if they issued medical marijuana recommendations.

As the veterans' issues website Connecting Vets Radio notes, a stand-alone bill, the Veterans Equal Access Act, also sponsored by Blumenauer, would essentially do the same thing as the withdrawn amendment. It is still in committee.

Cross-post to Cannabis Now

Graphic: DRCNet


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