U.S. Legislative Round-Up: Who’s Trying to Protect Legal Cannabis?
Since medical marijuana was first legalized by voters in California in 1996 to adult possession and cultivation of cannabis being legalized by legislators in Vermont now in 2018, there have been efforts to end the prohibition on a federal level. Unfortunately, each year it seems that the bills do not gain enough traction in either chamber to ever see a vote on the House or Senate floor.
However, some are predicting that Sessions latest move to revive the War on Drugs might be what was needed to spur the support of some lawmakers who might have held back their opinions while the previous administration simply respected states decisions.
“Voters across the country have made it clear that they want to see our failed marijuana criminalization laws modernized. The federal government should listen to the will of the people and stop forcing unjust and discriminatory criminalization policies on states that have chosen legalization,” echoed Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-California), who also co-sponsors H.R. 4779. “It’s time to empower our communities to move from prohibition towards progress.”
There are at least five significant bills being considered in the legislature right now – all of which have the potential to improve the current federal-state law conundrum that faces the cannabis industry.
First up is the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, officially known as H.R. 1227, which would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) altogether. There have been many versions of this bill introduced over the years, but it has never gained enough support to see a full vote.
Next up is the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, or H.R. 975, which would bar the Controlled Substance Act from applying to cannabis, as long as the person or entity was in compliance with all state laws.
Then there is The REFER Act, which aims to restrict funds and prohibit the federal government from prosecuting cannabusinesses that operate in compliance with state laws – very similar to the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act but creating the restriction from a financial standpoint.
Another significant bill to be watching is the Marijuana Justice Act, or S.1689, which aims to end federal prohibition of cannabis, while cutting law enforcement funding in states with racially disproportionate cannabis arrests – which is more than you would think. It would also allocate $500 million to a “community reinvestment fund” to repair the damage done by the Drug War.
And last, but possibly most likely to be passed, is the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, which would prevent the Department of Justice from spending money to go after medical marijuana – almost identical to the current Rohrabacher-Farr amendment – and the coinciding McClintock-Polis amendment, which would do the same for adult-use cannabis.
“Overall the response we’re seeing from federal lawmakers is to come out publicly and forcefully, but not just with comments or tweets, but by putting their names on legislation,” says Justin Strekal, political director for NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws). “It demonstrates that lawmakers are finally listening to the will of their constituents and recognizing the absurdity that is federal prohibition.”