Colorado Senator Gardner Calls On USDA To Protect Hemp Industry

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) is calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to delay implementation of the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program Interim Final Rule (IFR), which, as currently drafted, threatens the industrial hemp industry’s potential for Colorado’s farmers and seriously undermines this growing industry.

“The United States is now poised to transition from being a world-leading hemp importer to a world-leading hemp producer, and many look to Colorado farmers for guidance and clarity for the industry because Colorado is home to one of the longest-running state hemp programs,” wrote Senator Gardner. “I have worked with my colleagues and state officials to share with the USDA Colorado’s hemp experience, encourage greater flexibility for farmers, and encourage innovation of the industry. This includes echoing comments submitted by the State of Colorado during the IFR comment period.”

“I appreciate your leadership to the nation’s farmers throughout this extraordinary challenging time. Given these challenges, it is hard to overlook the great promise that the industrial hemp industry could provide to farmers if regulation is done in the proper manner. I encourage you to delay the final implementation of the IFR and work directly with state regulators and the industry to ensure workable rules that allow the industry to thrive,” Gardner concluded.

The full text of the letter can be found here and below:

Dear Secretary Perdue:

I write regarding the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program Interim Final Rule (IFR), which, as currently drafted, threatens the industrial hemp industry’s potential for Colorado’s farmers and seriously undermines this burgeoning industry. I join the growing chorus of my colleagues, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, and the National Industrial Hemp Council in requesting that you use your secretarial discretion to delay implementation of the final rule in order to address several outstanding issues.

The nation’s hemp industry was given an enormous boost when hemp was de-scheduled in the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. The United States is now poised to transition from being a world-leading hemp importer to a world-leading hemp producer, and many look to Colorado farmers for guidance and clarity for the industry because Colorado is home to one of the longest-running state hemp programs. Since 2014, Colorado’s program has grown to include about 2,600 active registrations. In 2019, there were nearly 90,000 acres of registered hemp production in the state. Colorado farmers have been at the forefront of the hemp industry, driving change and innovation across the country. The state carefully balances regulatory oversight and economic support, allowing it to have a thriving industry and be a leader to other states.

I have worked with my colleagues and state officials to share with the USDA Colorado’s hemp experience, encourage greater flexibility for farmers, and encourage innovation of the industry. This includes echoing comments submitted by the State of Colorado during the IFR comment period. Despite my communications, there remain serious concerns about how the IFR will impact the Colorado industry.

I appreciate your leadership to the nation’s farmers throughout this extraordinary challenging time. Given these challenges, it is hard to overlook the great promise that the industrial hemp industry could provide to farmers if regulation is done in the proper manner. I encourage you to delay the final implementation of the IFR and work directly with state regulators and the industry to ensure workable rules that allow the industry to thrive.

Harris Cosponsors Landmark Bill To End Federal Prohibition Of Marijuana

Marijuana Justice Act Seeks To Reverse Decades Of Policy That Has Disproportionately Impacted Communities Of Color, Low-Income Communities

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) today became the fourth U.S. senator to cosponsor Senator Cory Booker’s (D-NJ) landmark bill to end the federal prohibition on marijuana. The Marijuana Justice Act would remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances, making it legal at the federal level. Harris announced her support of the bill in a video.

“Right now in this country people are being arrested, being prosecuted, and end up spending time in jail or prison all because of their use of a drug that otherwise should be considered legal,” Senator Harris said. “Making marijuana legal at the federal level is the smart thing to do, it’s the right thing to do. I know this as a former prosecutor and I know it as a senator.”

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) became the first Senator to cosponsor the Marijuana Justice Act last year, followed by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in February, and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in April. In addition to these cosponsors, Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Ro Khanna (D-CA) introduced a companion measure in the House of Representatives earlier this year that has 35 cosponsors.

In addition to removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances, the bill would incentivize states through federal funds to change their marijuana laws if those laws were shown to have a disproportionate effect on low-income individuals and/or people of color. The bill is retroactive and would apply to those already serving time behind bars for marijuana-related offenses, providing for a judge’s review of marijuana sentences.

Specifically, the Marijuana Justice Act will:

  • Remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances, making it legal at the federal level;
  • Incentivize states through federal funds to change their marijuana laws if marijuana in the state is illegal and the state disproportionately arrests or incarcerates low-income individuals or people of color for marijuana-related offenses;
  • Automatically expunge federal marijuana use and possession crimes;
  • Allow an individual currently serving time in federal prison for marijuana use or possession crimes to petition a court for a resentencing;
  • Create a community reinvestment fund to reinvest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs and allow those funds to be invested in the following programs:
    • Job training;
    • Reentry services;
    • Expenses related to the expungement of convictions;
    • Public libraries;
    • Community centers;
    • Programs and opportunities dedicated to youth; and
    • Health education

Booker-Sanders-Casey Statement on CBO Score of Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bernard Sanders (D-VT), and Bob Casey (D-PA) issued the following joint statement in reaction to the preliminary cost estimate of the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act issued by the Congressional Budget Office:

“We are glad to see the independent Congressional Budget Office recognize that the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act — which will help lower prescription drug costs for millions of Americans by allowing the safe importation of prescription drugs from Canada and other nations — will also save taxpayers $6.8 billion over the next ten years. In addition, our bill will help patients struggling with skyrocketing drug costs save money while ensuring critical consumer safety protections — and providing major benefits for American taxpayers. We hope this CBO score will propel Senate Republicans to act and quickly take up this cost- and life-saving measure.”

In February, Booker, Sanders, and Casey introduced the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act to help lower the rising cost of prescription drugs by allowing Americans to import safe, low-cost medicine from Canada and other advanced countries.

The legislation would instruct the secretary of Health and Human Services to put forward regulations allowing wholesalers, pharmacies and individuals to import qualifying prescription drugs from licensed Canadian sellers. After two years, the secretary would have the authority to permit importation from countries in the Organizations for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) with standards for the approval and sale of prescription drugs that are comparable to those in the United States.

The bill includes detailed provisions outlining safeguards and consumer protections that ensure the safety of imported drugs, including FDA certification of foreign sellers, a clear definition of what drugs may be imported and supply chain security requirements. 

Federal Marijuana Protections Extended Through April

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Members of Congress have re-authorized a federal provision prohibiting the Justice Department from interfering in state-authorized medical cannabis programs. The provision, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, was included in short-term spending legislation, House Resolution 2028, and will expire on April 28, 2017.

Initially enacted by Congress in 2014, the amendment maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.” In August, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the language bars the federal government from taking legal action against any individual involved in medical marijuana-related activity absent evidence that the defendant is in clear violation of state law.

Because the provision is included as part of a Congressional spending package and does not explicitly amend the US Controlled Substances Act, members must re-authorize the amendment annually. However, House leadership may prohibit federal lawmakers from revisiting the issue when they craft a longer-term funding bill this spring. Such a change in House rules would require members of the Senate to pass an equivalent version of the legislation, which would then need to be approved by House leaders in conference committee.

The DEA Has Failed To Eradicate Marijuana. Some Members Of Congress Want It To Stop Trying.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The Drug Enforcement Administration is not having a great year.

The chief of the agency stepped down in April under a cloud of scandal. The acting administrator since then has courted ridicule for saying pot is “probably not” as dangerous as heroin, and more recently he provoked 100,000 petition-signers and seven members of Congress to call for his head after he called medical marijuana “a joke.”

This fall, the administration earned a scathing rebuke from a federal judge over its creative interpretation of a law intended to keep it from harassing medical marijuana providers. Then, the Brookings Institution issued a strongly worded report outlining the administration’s role in “stifling medical research” into medical uses of pot.

Unfortunately for the DEA, the year isn’t over yet. Last week, a group of 12 House members led by Ted Lieu (D) of California wrote to House leadership to push for a provision in the upcoming spending bill that would strip half of the funds away from the DEA’s Cannabis Eradication Program and put that money toward programs that “play a far more useful role in promoting the safety and economic prosperity of the American people”: domestic violence prevention and overall spending reduction efforts.

House Members Reauthorize Measure Protecting State Sanctioned Medical Marijuana Programs

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: A majority of the US House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to reauthorize legislation limiting the Justice Department’s ability to take criminal action against state-licensed operations that are acting in full compliance with the medical marijuana laws of their states.

House members voted 242 to 186 in favor of the amendment, offered by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Sam Farr (D-CA), Reid Ribble (R-WI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Joe Heck (R-NV), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Don Young (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Tom McClintock (R-CA), and Dina Titus (D-NV) as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2016 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill.

Sixty-seven Republicans joined 175 Democrats in favor of the provision; 176 Republicans and ten Democrats voted against it.

A similar amendment was signed into law last December. Because that language was included as an amendment to an annual spending bill, Congress must reauthorize it or else it will expire in September.

Rand Paul Proposes Measure To Shield State Medical Marijuana Laws From Feds

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Thursday filed an amendment in the Senate that would protect states that implement medical marijuana laws, as well as patients and physicians in those states, from federal prosecution.

Paul’s Amendment 3630, filed Thursday morning to Sen. John Walsh’s (D-Mont.) jobs bill being heard on the Senate floor, allows states to “enact and implement laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana for medical use” without fear of federal prosecution. There are 33 states that have enacted laws protecting some form medical marijuana.

The amendment also prohibits prosecution of patients and physicians in those states for violating federal laws against the drug.

“What we’re trying to do is look at the law and allow states that have changed their laws and have allowed medical marijuana to do so, for doctors to be able to prescribe and for people to be able to get those prescriptions without being worried about the federal government coming in and arresting them,” Brian Darling, Paul’s communications director, told The Huffington Post.