Federal Cannabis Legislative Horizon

By Art Cosgrove
Washington Cannabis Connection

 

The first half of 2017 has seen a slew of federal legislation come to the floor for debate in both the Senate and House of Representatives. Starting in January, the steady stream of legislation was ramped up by the February launch of the four-member bi-partisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus. Featuring Oregon congressman Earl Blumenauer (D), the now five-member group’s stated goal has been to protect the interests of the legal cannabis industry.

Here’s a rundown of what’s on the floor, what it does and where it’s at:

H.R.331 – States’ Medical Marijuana Property Rights Act – Introduced January 5th, 2017 by Rep. Barbara Lee (D – California) (reintroduced version of H.R.262 from 2015)
This would exclude real property (land & houses) from seizure by the government under the Controlled Substances Act, in effect since 1971, for Federal marijuana prosecutions. Property seizures have come under new scrutiny in the past few years from both liberals and conservatives, and getting real property seizures banned for cannabis arrests could be the first step in eliminating them altogether. Most recent action on the bill was its referral to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations on January 31.

H.R.715 – Compassionate Access Act – Introduced January 27th, 2017 by Rep. H. Morgan Griffith (R – Virginia) (reintroduced version of H.R.1774 from 2015)
This bill would simply remove marijuana from Schedule 1, which would be a huge victory for the legalization of cannabis altogether and its recognition as a viable medicine. Schedule 1 drugs by definition have no medicinal use. This bill would also make HR331 essentially unnecessary. It’s a long shot for passage under the current administration, and is also currently with the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations since January 31.

H.R.714 – LUMMA – Introduced January 27th, 2017 by Rep. H. Morgan Griffith (R – Virginia) (reintroduced version of H.R.2373 from 2015)
LUMMA stands for the Legitimate Use of Medical Marihuana Act, and is also an ambitious bill that might have problems with the policies of AG Sessions’ office. It would formally ban the Controlled Substances Act from applying to medical cannabis in any state where legal use of cannabis is allowed. It was most recently referred to the Subcommittee on Health on February 3rd.

H.R.975 – Respect for State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017 – Introduced February, 7th, 2017 by Rep Dana Rohrabacher (R – California) (reintroduced version of H.R.2373 from 2015)
This bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act to prevent “regulatory controls and administrative, civil, and criminal penalties” from applying to any person who “produces, possesses, distributes, dispenses, administers, or delivers marijuana in compliance with state laws.” Essentially a beefed up version of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which was not renewed for the last fiscal year.

H.R.1227 – Ending Federal Marijuna Prohibition Act of 2017 – Introduced February 27th, 2017 by Rep. Thomas A. Garrett, Jr. (R – Virginia) (reintroduced version of S.2237 from 2015)
This is a full end to Marijuana prohibition on a federal level, excluding interstate transportation. The 2015 version of this bill, S.2237 in the Senate, was introduced by Bernie Sanders and was unable to garner any support. Two years later the bill has other backers and is getting more coverage. It’s still a big long shot under the current administration. This bill is co-sponsored by rising Democratic star Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D – Hawaii), Rep. Scott Taylor (R – Virginia) and Cannabis Caucus member, Rep. Jared Polis (D – Colorado).

H.R.1841 – Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act – Introduced March 30th 2017 by Rep. Jared Polis (D – Colorado) (reintroduced version of H.R.1013 from 2015)
A perhaps slightly less forceful end to federal meddling in state marijuana industries, this bill is Polis’ flagship and considered a more potentially viable alternative to H.R.1227. It would leave the federal government in the marijuana regulation business, but as the title suggests, in a manner more akin to its regulation of alcohol. It’s a part of Sen. Ron Wyden’s “Path to Marijuana Reform” package of bills that were introduced in both the House and Senate. The bill has 10 co-sponsors and was most recently referred to the Subcomittee on Conservation and Forestry on April 24th.

H.R.1820 – The Veteran’s Equal Access Act – Introduced March 30th 2017 by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D – Oregon) (reintroduced version of H.R.667 from 2015)
Another prong in Wyden and company’s path is this bill, which would stop Veteran’s Administration from restricting veterans’ access to medical marijuana in states where it’s legal. Being a Schedule 1 drug has prevented VA doctors from giving written opinions and referrals for veterans seeking marijuana as a potential treatment option. It’s currently with the Subcommittee on Health and has broad bipartisan support, with libertarian Justin Amash (R – Michigan) and liberal Peter DeFazio (D – Oregon) among the 13 co-sponsors.

H.R.1824/S.780 – Responsibly Addressing the Marijuana Policy Gap Act – Introduced March 30th, 2017 in the Senate by Sen. Ron Wyden (D – Oregon) and in the House by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon)
This bicameral piece of new legislation is at the heart of the Path to Marijuana Reform. With five co-sponsors in the House, the bill is in the Senate Finance Committee and the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security respectively, and aims to bring federal and state statutes on Marijuana broadly into functioning interaction with each other.

H.R.1823/S.776 – Marijuana Revenue and Legislation Act – Introduced March 30th, 2017 in the Senate by Sen. Ron Wyden (D – Oregon) and in the House by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon)
Another part of the “Path,” this bill would amend the 1986 Internal Revenue Code allowing for taxes and regulation on cannabis products. With five cosponsors, the bill is currently in the House Committee on Ways and Means. This would be a major step toward the normalization of banking and finances for thousands of small businesses across the country.

H.R.1810/S.710 – Small Business Tax Equity Act – Introduced March 30th, 2017 in the Senate by Sen. Ron Wyden (D – Oregon) and in the House by Rep. Carlos Cubelo (R – Florida)
This road of the “Path” would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow businesses to deduct and take tax credits on their expenditures for marijuana products for business like any other product. The Senate version of the bill has three cosponsors while the House bill has 16. Along with 1823/776, these bills would go a long way toward allowing dispensaries and grow operations to participate in the economy the same way as the rest of the country.

H.R.1952 – The Better Drive Act – Introduced April 5th, 2017, by Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D – Texas)
With 9 cosponsors, this bill aims to prevent the suspension of driving privileges for drug offenses as a matter of course. Mainly it repeals Section 159 of Title 23 of the US Code, which mandates an 8% reduction in federal highway funding to states that don’t automatically suspend licenses of drug offenders. This bill is enjoying particularly bipartisan support from O’Rourke and co-sponsors such as Republicans Rep. Justin Amash (R – Michigan) and Rep. Mia Love (R – Utah). It’s currently being discussed by the Committee for Highway and Transit.

H.R.2020 – (currently unnamed legislation to reschedule Marijuana as drug) – Introduced April 6th, 2017 by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R – Florida) and Rep. Darren Soto (D – Florida)
This bill, unlike H.R.175, which calls for Marijuana to be removed from Schedule 1, specifically calls for it to move to Schedule 3 specifically. This would group it with other drugs that have medical uses and lower levels of physically addictive properties. This schedule does still feature potentially serious drugs of abuse such as anabolic steroids and Ketamine. It currently has 1 co-sponsor in addition to Gaetz and Soto, and is in front of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health.

H.R.2215/S.1152 – SAFE Banking Act – Introduced April 27th, 2017 in the House by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D – Corlorado) and May 17th, 2017 in the Senate by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D – Oregon) (reintroduced version of H.R. 2076/S.1726 from 2015)
This piece of legislation got quite a bit of fanfare when Merkley introduced it at the end of April. Standing for Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE), the act will protect the financial institutions accepting deposits from marijuana businesses from losing FDIC protections. This is a very popular piece of legislation across both aisles, as this question has continued to loom over businesses operating legally in their states for years already. The bill has 8 cosponsors in the senate and 40 in the House of representatives, representing the huge popularity it enjoys in states with cannabis industries already up and running.

H.R.2273/S.1008 – Separate Cannabidiol from Marijuana in the CSA Act – Introduced May 1st, 2017, in the House by Rep. Scott Perry (R – Pennsylvania) and May 2nd in the Senate by Sen. Cory Gardner (D – Colorado) (reintroduced version of H.R. 1635/S.1333 from 2015)
With 10 cosponsors in the senate and 19 in the House, this is another bill that has a lot of heat on it from the scientific community, and both parties. At this point, the scientific evidence pointing to the possible medical benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) is looking pretty mountainous. The idea of officially federally recognizing that CBD shouldn’t be grouped in with marijuana on Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act is an immensely popular one. This bill is also known as the Charlotte’s Web Medical Access Act of 2017 and currently sits before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health.

H.R.2528 – Respect States and Citizens Rights Act of 2017 – Introduced May 18th, 2017 by Rep. Diana DeGette (D – Colorado) and Mike Coffman (R – Colorado) (reintroduced version of H.R. 3629 from 2015, H.R.964 from 2013 and H.R.6606 from 2012)
This bill combines the aims of H.R. 2215 and 1824, by clarifying that states’ rules and laws will no longer be preempted by Federal rules in terms of both criminal and civil penalties regarding marijuana. It attempts to clarify the banking issue as well as the legal issues facing businesses in states where cannabis is now legal. This bill has no cosponsors beyond the two representatives from Colorado as of yet, and faces longer odds than either bills 2215 or 1824. It’s currently before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

S.1276 – Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act – Introduced May 25th, 2017, by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D – California) (reintroduced version of S.3629 from 2016)
This bill is a very interesting new development to come to the table, as Senator Feinstein’s bill aims to force Attorney General Sessions to make a decision on the scheduling of CBD on the Controlled Substances Act. This bill has bipartisan backing, as Powerful Senators Chuck Grassley (R – Iowa) and Richard Durbin (D – Illinois) are among the four cosponsors. While Sessions movements on marijuana have been concerning, there is huge and growing support among both parties and the general populace about the value of CBD and not grouping it with the psychoactive THC and other cannabinoids. So it is hoped by throwing the gauntlet on him to make a ruling, he won’t be able to kick the can down the road and will be forced to remove CBD from the schedule. This bill is currently still being finalized, so no text is currently available, but it has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

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