Congress to Consider Multiple Cannabis Reform Bills in Subcommittee Hearing

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – 2020 could be shaping up to be a major turning point for federal cannabis law.

Multiple cannabis reform bills will be debated by the congressional committee of House Energy and Commerce’s subcommittee on Health this Wednesday. According to a memo about the meeting, a total of six bills will be included in Wednesday’s hearing. The proposed measures cover a wide range of issues including cannabis research, legalization, de-scheduling, and allowing military vets access. Witnesses from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are set to testify.

H.R. 171, or the “Legitimate Use of Medicinal Marihuana Act” was introduced by U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith (R-Va) and would shift cannabis from a Schedule I substance to Schedule II under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). It would also protect businesses and patients abiding by local and state law from federal prosecution.

The “Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2019” (H.R. 601) was introduced by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla) and would require the U.S. Attorney General to “assess the supply of research-grade cannabis and directs the Attorney General to increase the number of federally registered cannabis manufacturers for research purposes,” according to the memo. It would also allow the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide information on medicinal cannabis to vets.

The “Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act” (H.R. 1151) was introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif). The bill “amends the CSA to include a safe harbor provision for veterans to use, possess, or transport marijuana.” Under H.R. 1151, physicians could discuss medicinal cannabis use with vets and would require the VA to conduct studies on the use of cannabis for pain management.

Rep. Hakeem S. Jeffries (D-NY) has introduced H.R. 2843, a bill known as the “Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act.” This bill also would remove cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic from the CSA and would require research into cannabis’s impact on the brain. The bill would place restrictions on cannabis advertising and earmark money for states to create criminal expungement programs for cannabis-related convictions. 

H.R. 3797, the “Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2019,” was introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore) and would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to ensure that cannabis is supplied for research through the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s supply program. The bill also addresses cannabis production regulations and research guidelines.

The “Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019” (H.R. 3884) would remove cannabis from its Schedule I designation under the CSA. Introduced by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the bill “creates an Opportunity Trust Fund at the Treasury to support new programs, including: the establishment of a Cannabis Justice Office within the Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs; and a Community Reinvestment Program that offers job training, reentry services, legal aid for civil and criminal cases, including expungement of cannabis convictions, literacy and health education programs, and youth recreation or mentoring Programs.”

As both medicinal and recreational cannabis legalization expands among states, federal agencies have yet to put forth much in the way of meaningful regulations. Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif), chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, will be participating in the hearing on Wednesday. 

“The federal law and the state laws are badly out of sync,” Eshoo said according to Bloomberg Law. “We’re particularly interested in examining the implications of changing marijuana’s schedule listing, the potential of cannabis research, and federal efforts to review and approve cannabidiol products.”

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