This really has been an an amazing year for cannabis reform – here’s a rundown of 2019’s historic events so far.
The United States Congress will take a break for the month of August. After their return they will seek to do some more good for cannabis reform. That’s right – the 116th is the most weed friendly Congress in history.
Already this year, they have had seven hearings on cannabis. Even further, a cannabis banking bill passed the committee stage. And the full house agreed on an amendment blocking federal interference in legal cannabis states. According to NORML Political Director Justin Strekal, “Congress has never moved this far, this fast on marijuana policy, period.”
Longtime cannabis advocate Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) says that, “long overdue efforts to reform our outdated cannabis laws are finally resonating in Congress.” Blumenauer continued, saying “bills to address policy failures in cannabis banking, veterans’ access, decriminalization and restorative justice have started moving through the legislative process.”
Read on to see just how right Blumenauer is. Especially when he talks about this year’s progress on cannabis reform from our weed friendly Congress.
A Year in Review for this Weed Friendly Congress:
A significant move by the House of Representatives was a June vote preventing the DOJ from using federal funds to interfere in legal state and territory cannabis programs. The House also moved to protect cannabis programs on indigenous lands, and attached an amendment to the same bill directing the Food and Drug Administration to establish a process for regulating CBD.
An appropriations bill that passed by the House aims to block the Treasury from enforcement action against banks that deal with state-legal cannabis business. Furthermore, it will finally remove a provision that prevents the District of Columbia from using tax dollars to administer legal cannabis sales. However, corresponding Senate bills are yet to pass, so we’ll see if the provisions will find their way onto the books.
Just last month, the House passed an amendment to stop discrimination on home loans for military veterans who work in the cannabis industry. The amendment was part of the National Defense Authorization Act; and it also provides for the military to allow veterans who consumed cannabis or received convictions for cannabis-related misdemeanors to reenlist. Again, the corresponding Senate bill does not include the same provisions, so veterans legally participating in the cannabis industry or enjoying cannabis may yet be disappointed.
While cannabis reform has seen unprecedented success in the weed-friendly House this year, the news isn’t all good. An amendment by “The Squad” member Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) which would have facilitated research into the medical use of psychedelics saw complete rejection. It was even rejected by a majority of her fellow Democrats. Furthermore, Rep. Blumenauer regretfully withdrew an amendment allowing VA doctors to issue recommendations for cannabis in legal states.
In addition to the series of weed-friendly votes in the House, a large number of hearings on various cannabis issues have taken place this year. These include:
- A Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on the topic of banking access for cannabis businesses.
- A Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on the nationwide legalization of hemp which was enacted as part of last year’s farm bill.
- A House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security hearing. During it, every witness spoke in favor of cannabis reform.
- Two hearings before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee regarding medical cannabis for veterans.
Weed Friendly Bills in Congress
A staggering 61 separate cannabis-focused bills have been filed so far this year, as well as a number of others that include cannabis-related provisions.
Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) filed companion bills in the Senate and House to federally legalize cannabis. This bill intends to reverse harms caused by cannabis prohibition, including plans to expunge cannabis convictions. Moreover, the bill contains a plan to stop the federal government from discriminating against immigrants trying to access benefits or citizenship.
Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY,) Chair of the House Small Business Committee filed a bill to allow cannabis firms to access federal small business loans. Additionally, it would boost insurance coverage for the cannabis industry.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) teamed up with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). They filed bills to deschedule cannabis and fund efforts to expunge federal cannabis convictions.
The Future for Cannabis in the U.S.
With a few exceptions, Democrats have largely spearheaded the push for cannabis reform. The party appears to be making cannabis reform a central component of their campaign for the 2020 elections. In fact, every major Democratic presidential candidate is advocating for some degree of cannabis reform. Their positions range from decriminalization all the way to federal legalization and a regulated recreational market.
So far, the Republican party is lagging behind on cannabis, but some analysts predict that President Trump could yet make legalization a major part of his election platform. Trump has a hard core of supporters, around 40 percent of voters, who remain loyal seemingly regardless of his actions. It could be that the President has little to lose and everything to gain by advocating for cannabis reform; especially in this weed friendly Congress.
We’re still over a year out from the 2020 elections, and that’s a lifetime in America’s current political climate. If Republicans calculate that cannabis could swing the election, you can bet they’ll adopt a weed-friendly position.