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Pro-Cannabis Bills on Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill

Numerous pieces of legislation are pending in Congress that would  protect users and businesses in legal states.

The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment

The first priority is ensuring that members of Congress re-authorize the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and former Rep. Sam Farr (who recently retired and has been replaced by Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer as the Democratic sponsor). First enacted on Capitol Hill in 2014, this budgetary amendment ensures that no federal funds may be spent for the purpose of preventing states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

However, because the measure explicitly impacts the federal budget, but doesn’t permanently change federal marijuana laws, politicians must re-approve the language annually in order to keep its provisions in effect. The 2016 version of the amendment (which was grated a three-month extension) is set to expire on April 28, 2017.

Contact your Congressional lawmakers in support of this bill here

The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act

Congressional lawmakers are also pushing multiple measures to amend the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Most significantly, a coalition of seven Republicans and six Democrats have introduced House Bill 975, “the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017,” to prevent the federal government from criminally prosecuting individuals or businesses engaged in state-sanctioned activities specific to the possession, use, production, and distribution of marijuana. The measure amends the CSA to read, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the provisions of this subchapter related to marihuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with State laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration or delivery of marihuana.”

Passage of HB 975 would halt federal officials from prosecuting individuals and businesses for violations of federal law in the 29 states that permit either medical or adult use and distribution of marijuana. According to national polling, 71% of voters, including majorities of both Democrats and Republicans, believe that state officials—not the federal government—ought to be the ultimate arbiters of marijuana policy.

Contact your Congressional lawmakers in support of this bill here

The Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017

On Feb. 27, Reps. Tom Garrett (R–VA) and Tulsi Gabbard (D–HI) re-introduced “the Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017,” which excludes the cannabis plant from the federal Controlled Substances Act. Like the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, this measure would also ensure that states with the power to set their own marijuana policies free from undue federal interference. The act was original sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–VT)  and introduced in the Senate last year. This is the first time the bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives.

Contact your Congressional lawmakers in support of this bill here

House Bill 331

Passage of HB 331, introduced by California Democrat Barbara Lee and five co-sponsors, would “amend the Controlled Substances Act… to exempt real property from civil forfeiture due to medical marijuana-related conduct that is authorized by state law.” This change would be significant, since previous administrations, including the Obama administration, have tried to close some of the nation’s most prominent state-authorized dispensaries like California’s Berkeley Patients Group and Harborside Health Center by initiating civil forfeiture proceedings. (Those two efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.) The extensive use of forfeiture proceedings, which in some cases permit the government to seize property without charging anyone with a crime, is also a favored tactic of Sessions.

Contact your Congressional lawmakers in support of this bill here

House Bill 715

Virginia Republican Morgan Griffith, along with co-sponsors Blumenauer and Garrett, have introduced HB 715, which seeks to remove the cannabis plant from Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act. Specifically, the measure “directs the Department of Health and Human Services to submit to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) a recommendation to transfer marijuana from Schedule I to another controlled substances schedule. The DEA must consider the recommendation and issue a final rule to reclassify marijuana.” The bill also amends federal law to exclude cannabidiol (CBD) from the definition of marijuana and to remove it from the CSA as well. The introduction of the bill comes just months after the DEA rejected a pair of petitions seeking to reschedule marijuana (see “DEAja Vu”).

Contact your congressional lawmakers in support of this bill here

Expeditious passage of these measures is needed in these uncertain political times. Recently, both Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer have indicated that the federal government will step up federal enforcement in states with adult-use marijuana laws. Congressional approval of one or more of these measures would ensure protections for patients and recreational users from undue federal interference by the Justice Department, potentially end the state/federal marijuana conflict and keep the notoriously anti-pot Sessions at bay.

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