House Approves Blumenauer Amendment To Protect Cannabis Programs

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  As national support for federal marijuana legalization continues to climb, the U.S. House of Representatives today approved important legislation to protect state, territory, and tribal cannabis programs from federal interference.

The amendment, introduced by U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-CO), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and Barbara Lee (D-CA), was approved 254–163 and would ensure legal cannabis programs in Oregon and dozens of other states, territories, and tribal lands are protected from Department of Justice intervention.

“The American people are demanding a change to our outdated cannabis laws and I am glad to see my colleagues heeding their calls,” Blumenauer, founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said. “As we work to ultimately end the senseless prohibition of cannabis and the failed war on drugs, these amendments will help ensure the protection of legal state, territory and tribal cannabis programs.”

“For far too long, our federal cannabis policies have been rooted in our discriminatory past and have continued inflicting harm on communities of color. As the public’s views toward cannabis have evolved, Congress has a responsibility to ensure that our policies follow suit and move toward restorative justice,” Lee said. “I’m proud to have worked alongside Reps. Blumenauer, McClintock, and Holmes Norton on this crucial amendment to protect the progress states, tribes, and territories have made toward ending the discriminatory war on drugs.”

A copy of the amendment approved Thursday by the House can be found here.

And here’s a video of Blumenauer speaking in support of the amendment today on the House floor.

House Financial Services Committee Passes SAFE Banking Act

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Today, the House Financial Services Committee voted 45 to 15 to pass H.R. 1595, the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2019. Authored by U.S. Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO-07) and Denny Heck (D-WA-10) and cosponsored by Reps. Warren Davidson (R-OH-08) and Steve Stivers (R-OH-15). The bill allows marijuana-related businesses in states with existing regulatory structures to access the banking system.

Today, voters in 47 states plus the District of Columbia – 97.7 percent of the population – have legalized some form of adult recreational and medical marijuana, including cannabidiol. Today’s vote marks a significant milestone considering Congress has failed to act on this issue since similar legislation was first introduced in 2013.

Cannabis is currently considered illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act therefore financial institutions providing banking services to legitimate and licensed marijuana businesses are subject to criminal prosecution. Since state and federal law are not aligned on the issue, legal and legitimate businesses are forced to operate on a cash-only basis creating a serious public safety risk for employees, businesses and communities, as well as providing an opportunity for tax evasion, money laundering and other white-collar crimes. The SAFE Banking Act is seen as the first of many cannabis reform measures.

With 152 cosponsors at the time of the committee vote – over a third of the entire House – the bill will next move to the floor of the House. A Senate companion bill is also expected to be introduced in the coming weeks. The bill’s sponsors applauded the committee vote and reiterated the need to continue to advance the legislation.

“The SAFE Banking Act is about public safety, accountability and respecting states’ rights. Our federal banking laws were designed to prevent illicit activity and help law enforcement do their jobs. These laws need to be applied to legitimate marijuana businesses and employees in order to improve transparency and accountability and help root out illegal transactions. Most importantly, the SAFE Banking Act will get cash off our streets, reducing the risk of violent crime and making our communities safer,” said Perlmutter. “While Congress has stuck its head in the sand for many years, this Committee has shown leadership on this issue and I want to thank my cosponsors and members of the Committee for their support.”

“With this vote, the Financial Services Committee took a stand for public safety and transparency. The SAFE Banking Act will enhance public safety by giving those operating legitimate marijuana establishments access to banking services available to other industries,” said Heck. “These businesses will no longer need to deal exclusively in cash. The SAFE Banking Act will help ensure the fair treatment of those who work for or do business with a legitimate marijuana business. Finally, the SAFE Banking Act will make the marijuana industry more transparent and accountable by ensuring compliance with current regulations and norms.”

“Today’s markup allowed for input from both sides of the aisle that ultimately made the SAFE Banking Act a stronger bill, including my amendment to give safe harbor to insurers, and I look forward to working with Representative Perlmutter to continue improving it as it moves through the legislative process,” Stivers said. “This isn’t a bill about condoning marijuana use, it’s about ensuring businesses are not forced to operate in cash and open themselves up to risk, and I believe the improvements made today reflect that goal.  Again, I want to thank Mr. Perlmutter, as well as Mr. Heck and Mr. Davidson for their leadership on this issue.”

“Government regulators have deemed cannabis business owners to have certain reputational risks. From a civil liberties standpoint, we need to move away from this. Allowing these businesses access to the safety of our American financial institutions minimizes risk for owners and enhances our national security. I thank my colleagues for their work on this critical legislation,” said Davidson.

A draft version of the SAFE Banking Act was discussed during the first-ever congressional hearing about cannabis banking on February 13, 2019. Compared to previous iterations of the bill, the SAFE Banking Act of 2019 adds protection for ancillary businesses like real estate owners, accountants, and other vendors from money laundering and other laws as well as adjusts the tribal language and the definition of “cannabis-related legitimate business.” The final version of H.R. 1595 voted on in Committee also includes two provisions aimed at expanding access to financial services for minority-owned and women-owned cannabis-related businesses.

H.R. 1595 has the support of the American Bankers Association, Credit Union National Association, Independent Community Bankers of America, the Electronic Transactions Association, the National Cannabis Industry Association, Mid-Size Bank Coalition of America, The Real Estate Roundtable, and various U.S. trade associations such as American Land Title and American Property Casualty Insurance Association, among others.

Representative Tulsi Gabbard To Lead Landmark Bipartisan Marijuana Reform

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), along with Rep. Don Young (AK-AL), NORML, and other supporters, will hold a press conference introducing two bipartisan marijuana bills.

The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2019 would remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances list and allow states the freedom to regulate marijuana as they choose, without federal interference.

The Marijuana Data Collection Act of 2019 would study the effects of state legalized medicinal and non-medicinal marijuana programs from a variety of perspectives, including state revenues, public health, substance abuse and opioids, criminal justice, and employment.

Details:

Day-of Contact: Lauren McIlvaine: (202) 713-6040

Thursday, March 7, 2019:

Who:

  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02)
  • Rep. Don Young (AK-AL)
  • Erik Altieri, Executive Director, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)

When: 11:00 AM ET

Where: House Triangle, U.S. Capitol

 

House And Senate Ag Leaders: We’ve Reached Agreement In Principle On 2018 Farm Bill

MJLegal

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: House and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairmen Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and Pat Roberts (R- Kan.) and Ranking Members Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) made the following announcement today on the state of 2018 Farm Bill negotiations:

“We’re pleased to announce that we’ve reached an agreement in principle on the 2018 Farm Bill. We are working to finalize legal and report language as well as CBO scores, but we still have more work to do. We are committed to delivering a new farm bill to America as quickly as possible.”

Congressional Committee Approves Legislation To Expand Pool Of Federally Licensed Marijuana Growers

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Members of the US House Judiciary Committee last week voted in favor of legislation, HR 5634: The Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2018, to facilitate FDA-approved clinical trials involving whole-plant cannabis. The Act mandates the federal government to license multiple providers of research-grade marijuana, among other changes.

The vote marks the first time that lawmakers have ever decided in favor of easing existing federal restrictions which limit investigators’ ability to clinically study marijuana in a manner similar to other controlled substances. The measure now awaits further action on the House floor.

Under current US policy, investigators can only administer cannabis provided by the University of Mississippi during the course of an FDA-approved trial. However, many of those familiar with their product have criticized its quality, opining that it possesses subpar potency, is often poorly manicured, and that it does not accurately reflect the wide variety of cannabis products and strains available to consumers.

In 2016, the US Drug Enforcement Administration amended its regulations to permit additional applicants to seek federal licensure to grow marijuana for use in clinical research. However, to date, neither the DEA nor the Justice Department have taken action on over two-dozen pending applications. Passage of HR 5634 would mandate federal agencies approve at least two new applicants within a year’s time.

This week, clinical investigators with the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California, San Diego received federal permission to import cannabis products manufactured in Canada for use in human trials. The products, which are high in cannabidiol and low in THC, are unavailable from the University of Mississippi program, which currently provides only six distinct cannabis strains – none of which contain more than 0.08 percent CBD.

SEND A MESSAGE TO YOUR REPRESENTATIVE IN SUPPORT OF THIS LEGISLATION


For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org or NORML Political Director, Justin Strekal, at (202) 483-5500. Read NORML’s op-ed on the pending legislation, “The federal government must stop stifling medical marijuana research.”

First Ever Veterans-Focused Medical Bill Introduced In Senate

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) on Wednesday introduced legislation, The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, to expand and facilitate medical cannabis access to military veterans suffering from chronic pain, PTSD, and other serious medical conditions.

Under existing regulations, VA doctors are not permitted to fill out the mandatory paperwork necessary to recommend cannabis therapy in those 31 states that regulate it. Passage of The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act ends this discrimination against veterans and prevents sanctions against VA doctors who wish to recommend medical cannabis treatment to their patients. The Act also encourages the Veterans Administration to promulgate medical cannabis research, and appropriates funding for scientific studies.

A recent American Legion poll found that nearly one in four veterans use marijuana to alleviate a medical condition. A 2017 review of over 10,000 studies by the National Academy of Sciences concluded, “There is conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis and cannabinoids are effective for the treatment for chronic pain in adults.”

Similar legislation, The Veterans Equal Access Act (HR 1820) is pending in the House. You can contact your federal lawmakers in support of both of these bills using the NORML Action Alert.


more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500

Lawmakers Demand The VA Study Medical Marijuana

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Members of the US House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs are demanding that the Department of Veterans Affairs facilitate protocols to assess the efficacy of medical cannabis in veterans suffering from chronic pain conditions and post-traumatic stress.

Minnesota Democrat Tim Walz, along with nine other Democrat members of the Committee, authored an October 26, 2017 letter to VA Secretary David Shulkin stating: “[The] VA is uniquely situated to pursue research on the impact of medical marijuana on veterans suffering from chronic pain and PTSD given its access to world class researchers, the population it serves, and its history of overseeing and producing research resulting in cutting-edge medical treatments. … VA’s pursuit of research into the impact of medical marijuana on the treatment of veterans diagnosed with PTSD who are also experiencing chronic pain is integral to the advancement of health care for veterans and the nation. We ask VA to respond … with a commitment to the development of VHA-led research into this issue.”

In September, representatives from The American Legion addressed a separate letter to VA Secretary Shulkin encouraging the federal agency to assist in an ongoing, FDA-approved clinical trial assessing the safety and efficacy of various strains of cannabis in veterans with PTSD. To date, the VA has refused to assist in patient recruitment for the trial. The VA has yet to publicly respond to the Legion’s letter.

Survey data finds that military veterans frequently consume cannabis therapeutically, often using it as an alternative to conventional medications in the treatment of pain and post-traumatic stress.


For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500.

Will DC Be Next with Recreational Dispensaries?

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Our nation’s capital may well be the next jurisdiction to legalize recreational marijuana dispensaries. And if that occurs, it will inevitably help shape the debate in Congress over marijuana policy.

That is, of course, important for the 658,893 people who live in the District, and the 6,033,737 people who live in the metropolitan area, but it will also be a helpful step in eventually persuading Congress to remove federal impediments to full legalization at the state level.

Every member of Congress, all 435 House members and 100 senators, maintain two homes: one in the home state district where they were elected, and a second in DC, where they spend at least three days each week when Congress is in session. And while many of these elected officials from around the country currently hold exaggerated views of the dangers of marijuana smoking, simply living here and seeing the sky doesn’t fall when prohibition is ended and marijuana is legalized, is likely the most effective way for us to continue to build support for legalization in the Congress. There is nothing more persuasive than personal experience.

Senate Bill Would Give Military Vets Access To Medical Marijuana

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Military veterans would no longer be denied access to medical marijuana under sweeping new legislation before the Senate.

The medical marijuana legislation introduced Tuesday would lift the threat of federal prosecution from people who use it in states where it has been legalized.

The bipartisan Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act is backed by Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and would partially legalize medical marijuana at the federal level, though it does not address recreational marijuana.

“This bill seeks to right decades of wrong and end unnecessary marijuana laws,” Booker said.

 

Medical Marijuana Bill In Congress: How Senate Legislation Would Change US Pot Laws

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Three U.S. senators are expected to introduce a bill into Congress Tuesday that would legalize medical marijuana nationwide, a move advocates of marijuana legalization are applauding as an historic step toward ending the federal prohibition on a product whose medicinal applications are many. Experts described it as the most far-reaching medical marijuana bill ever to go to Congress and the first time such has a bill has been seen in the Senate.

“This is a significant step forward when it comes to reforming marijuana laws at the federal level,” Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in an emailed statement. “The vast majority of Americans support laws that allow seriously ill people to access medical marijuana…The introduction of this legislation in the Senate demonstrates just how seriously this issue is being taken on Capitol Hill.”

Among other things, the bill would downgrade marijuana to Schedule 2 on the Drug Enforcement Agency’s classification system. As a Schedule 1 drug, marijuana currently is considered as having a “high potential for abuse” and “no…accepted medical use.”

The bill would make inter-state transport of medical marijuana easier, according to the Washington Post. It would change national drug rules regarding marijuana’s use in research, allowing cannabis to be studied more widely. The bill would also give medical marijuana businesses greater access to banking services, and allow Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to prescribe the drug for certain medical conditions.