A powerful GOP-controlled House committee has blocked another series of marijuana and psychedelic reform amendments to large-scale spending legislation, including a bipartisan proposal to protect all state cannabis programs from federal interference.
The House Rules Committee declined to make in order for floor consideration several marijuana amendments during meetings on Monday and Tuesday. While most of the measures called for modest reforms supported by legalization advocates, the panel also blocked a proposal from prohibitionist Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) that would have prevented the Biden administration from rescheduling cannabis.
The two spending bills that were taken up by the committee this week covered funding for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LaborH).
To advocates’ disappointment, the panel declined to advance an amendment to the floor that would have prevented DOJ from using its funds to interfere in the implementation of “any law of that jurisdiction that authorizes the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana.”
That measure was sponsored Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Dave Joyce (R-OH). Earlier versions of the measure have been been approved on the House floor in years past but have yet to be enacted into law.
“The election last week in Ohio, a Republican state where people overwhelmingly supported legalization, illustrates the reality on the ground. The American public is not waiting,” Blumenauer told Marijuana Moment on Wednesday. “My amendment would be an opportunity for the federal government to solve problems instead of creating them. I am disappointed that it was blocked from being brought for a vote.”
The CJS bill that’s going to the floor does still include a more limited rider that’s been annually renewed each year since 2014, preventing federal funds from being used to interfere in the implementation of state and territory medical cannabis programs.
The Rules Committee also blocked two of the latest versions of an amendment to CJS and LaborH appropriations legislation from Rep. Robert Garcia (D-CA) that would have blocked funding to drug test federal job applicants for marijuana. The congressman has filed numerous versions of the reform to various spending bills this year, so far without avail.
In an interview with Marijuana Moment earlier this month, Garcia said he believes federal legalization is long overdue, and in the meantime he’s using his past experience reforming city-level workplace cannabis policy as mayor of Long Beach to inform his congressional efforts.
Blumenauer and Garcia also separately teamed up on an amendment to the CJS bill that would have protected jurisdictions that legalize psilocybin for therapeutic use. That proposal was not made in order by the committee either.
Meanwhile, the panel also rejected a proposed cannabis measure from Sessions, a vociferously anti-marijuana congressman who himself blocked numerous cannabis reform measures from reaching the floor during his time as the Rules Committee chairman until he lost reelection in 2018. He returned to the House after winning election in a different district in 2020.
Sessions’s amendment would have prevented federal funds from being used to “deschedule, reschedule, or reclassify marihuana” under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
That would have threatened to undermine an ongoing administrative review into marijuana scheduling that was directed by President Joe Biden last year. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has recommended that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) move cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III under the CSA, and the law enforcement agency that would be impacted by the Sessions amendment is now actively carrying out its own review before making a final determination.
Sessions recently led a letter urging DEA to “reject” the top federal health agency’s recommendation to reschedule marijuana and instead keep it in the most restrictive category under the CSA.
For the LaborH spending bill, the Rules Committee additionally blocked an amendment from Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) that would have prevented the use of federal funds for any government and private entity to establish overdose prevention centers where people could use currently illicit drugs in a medically supervised environment.
Last week, meanwhile, the committee quashed an amendment to another spending bill that would have freed up Washington, D.C. to legalize marijuana sales in the nation’s capital, as well as another proposal from Garcia to prevent drug testing federal job applicants for cannabis.
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While the Garcia-Blumenauer psilocybin amendment to the CJS bill was blocked, the Rules Committee has allowed separate, GOP-led psychedelics measures to receive floor consideration as part of another appropriations bill that ultimately passed the full House.
One of those House-passed amendments would allow VA doctors to issue medical cannabis recommendations to veterans, and the other would encourage research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA.
The Senate approved a bill this month that also includes a similar provision to allow VA to issue medical marijuana recommendations to veterans living in legal states—setting the stage for conference with the House.
A pair of psychedelics research measures, as well as an amendment on creating federal labeling requirements related to marijuana interactions with prescription drugs, were also approved by the House in September as part of a Department of Defense (DOD) spending bill.
A report attached to the spending legislation by the House Appropriations Committee separately includes a section noting that “VA has clarified that nothing in VA statutes or regulations specifically prohibits a veteran whose income is derived from state-legalized cannabis activities from obtaining a certificate of eligibility for VA home loan benefits.”
In another pair of reports for spending bills on CJS and LaborH, the Appropriations Committee is pushing for researchers to be able to study the cannabis products that consumers purchase in legal states. The CJS report also urges the Justice Department to study the effectiveness of state regulatory frameworks for marijuana.
Over in the Senate, lawmakers passed defense legislation in July that contains provisions to bar intelligence agencies like the CIA and NSA from denying security clearances to applicants solely due to their past marijuana use. But other cannabis proposals, such as one from Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) to allowed medical marijuana use by veterans, did not advance as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
More than a dozen marijuana and psychedelics amendments to the House version of the NDAA were blocked by the Rules Committee in July. That includes a measure introduced by Garcia that would have prevented security clearance denials for federal workers over prior cannabis use.
However, in September the House Oversight and Accountability Committee passed a standalone bipartisan bill that would prevent the denial of federal employment or security clearances based on a candidate’s past marijuana use.
Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.