House GOP Suddenly Turns on Cannabis

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WASHINGTON – It’s all fun and games until rescheduling looks imminent. Although they’ve seemed amenable to cannabis reform in the past, Republicans in the House of Representatives now are using procedural moves to block initiatives that would allow President Joe Biden, a Democrat, to claim partial completion of previous campaign promises.

This week alone, GOP-led House committees rejected three cannabis-friendly amendments to budget bills and added language that would block the Department of Justice (DOJ) from rescheduling cannabis as recommended by U.S. health officials.

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The House Committee on Rules, led by Chairman Michael C. Burgess (R-TX), blocked a defense bill amendment sponsored by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) that would have protected military personnel from dismissal based solely on a non-violent cannabis-related offense. The committee also rejected Rep. Robert Garcia’s (D-CA) amendment to stop federal agencies from testing most job applicants for private cannabis use in states with regulations in place.

In addition, the committee blocked a proposed amendment from Rep. Gabe Vasquez (D-NM) that would have prevented the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from using its funds to seize cannabis from state-legal operators. Since February, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents in New Mexico have seized regulated cannabis worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from at least fifteen state-licensed producers during traffic stops. CBP, a division of DHS, has federal law enforcement authority up to 100 miles inland of international borders. That, the agency claims, allows it to seize federal contraband even in states where cannabis is legal.

Meanwhile, Republican members of the appropriations subcommittee, led by Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), are employing the same strategy used in the pro-cannabis Rohrabacher-Farr amendment to execute an anti-cannabis agenda. Rohrabacher-Farr prohibits the DOJ from spending appropriated funds to interfere with state-legal medical cannabis programs, businesses, and patients. In this instance, a subcommittee marked up the 2025 appropriations bill for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies with language blocking the DOJ from using appropriated funds to reschedule or remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.

“None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used to reschedule marijuana (as such term is defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802)) or to remove marijuana from the schedules established under section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812),” the bill states.

Generally speaking, the House has been the friendlier-to-the-industry congressional body. While relatively popular issues like cannabis banking reform historically have struggled in the Senate, the House has passed a version of the SAFE(R) Banking Act seven times. But in an election year that’s extremely polarized, any measure that could be construed as a win for Democrats may be dead on arrival, at least in the House.

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