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Analysis: GOP Congress Has Blocked Dozens Of Marijuana Amendments

Analysis: GOP Congress Has Blocked Dozens Of Marijuana Amendments

Increase military veterans’ access to access medical cannabis. Shield state marijuana laws from federal interference. Protect industrial hemp growers’ water rights. Allow marijuana businesses to be taxed fairly and to access banking services.

That describes just some of the nearly three dozen cannabis-related amendments that Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives has blocked from even being voted on during the current Congress, a new analysis by Marijuana Moment finds.

On at least 34 occasions, lawmakers—Democrats and Republicans alike—filed marijuana and drug policy reform proposals only to be stymied by the powerful Rules Committee, which decides which measures can advance to the House floor.

One Man Is The Biggest Obstacle To Congressional Marijuana Reform.

That panel, led by Congressman Pete Sessions (R-TX), has for the past several years instituted an effective roadblock to cannabis law reform by refusing to make any amendments dealing with the plant “in order.” That means the full 435-member roster of House never even gets an opportunity to vote on the measures.

https://massroots.wpengine.com/news/man-reason-congress-cant-vote-marijuana-anymore/

This analysis only covers the current 115th Congress, which began in January 2017. Republican leaders have made a practice of blocking cannabis amendments since the previous summer.

The last time the House was allowed to vote on marijuana, in May 2016, a measure to allow military veterans to get medical cannabis recommendations from Department of Veterans Affairs doctors was approved by a overwhelming vote of 233 to 189. Several other marijuana measures were approved on the House floor in the two years preceding that, including proposals to let marijuana businesses store their profits in banks and to protect state medical cannabis laws from Justice Department interference, the latter of which made it into federal law and is still on the books.

In June 2015, an amendment to expand that protection to prevent the Department of Justice from interfering with all state marijuana laws—including those allowing recreational marijuana use and sales—came just nine flipped votes short of passage.

Since that time, the number of states with legal marijuana has more than doubled, meaning that far more legislators now represent constituents who would stand to be protected. Advocates are confident they could get the measure approved if given another opportunity, but the cannabis blockade by Sessions’s Rules Committee has meant that no more votes on it have been allowed.

While House Republicans have instituted a broader policy of blocking amendments deemed to be “controversial” after floor disputes on gay rights and gun policy measures threatened the passage of several spending bills in 2015, Sessions, who is not related to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, seems to have a particular problem with marijuana.

“I, as probably everybody in this rooms knows, have a strong opinion on drugs, illegal drugs, alcohol,” he said just before stymying a measure to prevent federal intervention in state cannabis laws earlier this year. “Marijuana is an addictive product, and the merchants of addiction make it that way. They make it for addiction. They make it to where our people, our young people, become addicted to marijuana and keep going.”

On another occasion, Sessions claimed that cannabis is now more potent than it was when he was a young man—by a mathematically impossible factor.

“When I went to high school…in 1973, I graduated, marijuana, on average, is 300 times more powerful,” he said. “That becomes an addictive element for a child to then go to the next thing.”

Legalization Supporters Target Sessions For Defeat.

Sessions, like all members of the House, is up for reelection this year. The Cook Political Report, which tracks congressional races, moved his seat—Texas’s 32nd congressional district—from being rated “Lean Republican” to the closer “Toss Up” status last month. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the district.

Sensing an opportunity, marijuana reform advocates are targeting Sessions for defeat in 2018.

Pro-legalization Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who has authored several of the blocked amendments, started a PAC and pledged to fund in-district billboards spotlighting Sessions’s anti-cannabis tactics.

Medical Marijuana Veterans

Six of the amendments blocked by Sessions and his committee concerned military veterans’ access to medical cannabis. Five had to do with marijuana businesses’ ability to use banking services. Seven would have allowed states and Washington, D.C. to implement their own marijuana laws without federal interference.

“These are not controversial measures. They have bipartisan support,” Blumenauer told Marijuana Moment in an emailed statement. “By blocking our amendments, Sessions is standing in the way of progress, commonsense, and the will of the American people—and that includes Republican voters.”

Pro-Legalization Congressman To Target Anti-Cannabis Lawmakers

Sessions faces Democrat Colin Allred, a former NFL player, in November.

“I support the use of medical marijuana as an alternative to the habit-forming opioids that have become a national crisis,” the challenger told Politico. “This common-sense approach to alternative treatments has been opposed by Pete Sessions, and is something I will fight to expand.”

The willingness to see Sessions go extends even to dedicated Republicans who could risk seeing control of the House tipped to Democrats in what is expected to be a very close midterm election overall.

“More often than not, elected officials respond to carrots and sticks. So if making Pete Sessions an electoral casualty is what it takes to advance drug policy reform, so be it,” Don Murphy, a Republican former Maryland state lawmaker who now serves as federal policies director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), told Marijuana Moment. “If the GOP loses control of the House by one vote, it won’t be my fault. I tried to warn them.”

Former MPP executive director Rob Kampia says he’s aiming to raise half a million dollars to pour into the effort to defeat Sessions with his new outfit, the Marijuana Leadership Campaign, and a related political action committee.

More Cannabis Amendments Are Likely To Be Blocked Soon.

In the meantime, it seems likely that even more cannabis proposals will be added to the blocked tally when the Rules Committee considers a broad funding package this week which includes the Financial Services and General Government bill. Earlier versions of that annual appropriations legislation have been used as vehicles for measures concerning Washington, D.C.’s ability to spend its own money regulating marijuana and to allow cannabis growers, processors and retailers to access financial services.

Marijuana Moment’s analysis of blocked marijuana amendments relies heavily on a reportissued in late May by Rules Committee Democrats, which tallied all blocked amendments across issues up to that point. (Marijuana Moment identified several subsequent cannabis measures that were prevented from reaching the floor following the Democratic report’s release.)

“Shutting down amendments and preventing debate is bad for the Congress as an institution, but is even worse for the country,” the Rules Committee minority, led by Congressman James McGovern of Massachusetts, wrote. “The inevitable result is partisan legislation written by a small number of Members, staff and lobbyists, with many bipartisan priorities left out in the cold.”

“Blocking amendments shuts out members of Congress from offering their ideas to improve legislation, and in doing so silences the voices of the millions of Americans they are elected to represent. So far during this record-breaking closed 115th Congress, 380 Members have had at least one amendment blocked from consideration by the Republican-controlled Rules Committee and Republican Leadership.

“These districts account for 270 million Americans. In other words, Representatives from roughly 80 percent of the county have been blocked from offering an idea for debate on the House Floor – the ideas their constituents sent them to Congress to advocate for on their behalf.”

In the report, which dubs the 115th Congress “the most closed Congress in history,” Democrats call out Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), who pledged to “uphold the rights of the minority” and “have a process that is more open, more inclusive, more deliberative, more participatory.”

“You are the first Speaker in history to have never allowed a truly open rule, which would permit all Members to offer their ideas on the floor of the House,” McGovern and Democratic colleagues wrote.

“The People’s House is meant to operate as a deliberative body. Shutting out the voices of the representatives of hundreds of millions of Americans erodes the foundation of our democracy, and makes the job of governing increasingly more difficult.”

While the Democrats highlight several issue areas such as guns, immigration, the environment, veterans affairs and criminal justice reform in their report narrative, they do not specially discuss the blocked marijuana amendments, which are included in an appendix that lists every submitted measure not “made in order” by the Rules Committee.

Among the cannabis-related amendments impeded during this Congress were measures to reduce funding for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s marijuana eradication efforts, shield military veterans from losing their benefits due to cannabis use, expand research on marijuana’s medical benefits, allow Indian tribes to enter the cannabis industry and create a federal excise tax on marijuana sales.

There were also measures that would have granted an official congressional apology for the damage done by the war on drugs and ceased the practice of punishing states that don’t automatically revoke drivers licenses from people convicted of drug offenses.

At a time when marijuana law reform enjoys overwhelming support from voters, and more states are modernizing their cannabis laws, lawmakers in the so-called “People’s House” are not even allowed to vote on the issue.

The Senate Saves The Day. Maybe.

For the past several years, cannabis reform advocates have been largely relying on the Senate to advance their proposals. Last month, for example, that chamber’s Appropriations Committee approved measures on veterans’ medical cannabis access and preventing Justice Department intervention in state medical marijuana laws. (The panel, however, blocked an amendment on banking for marijuana businesses.)

Meanwhile, advocates this year for the first time advanced a marijuana amendment out the House Appropriations Committee, circumventing the Pete Sessions floor blockade. That measure, to shield state medical cannabis laws from federal interference, has historically required House floor votes—now impossible, thanks to Sessions—or Senate action to advance.

The ultimate fate of the various Senate-approved marijuana measures now rests with bicameral conference committees that will merge the two chambers’ bills into single proposals to be sent to President Trump’s desk.

For example, both the Senate and the House approved separate versions of large-scale food and agriculture legislation known as the Farm Bill this year, but only the Senate version has hemp legalization language in it. Sessions’s Rules Committee blocked a House vote. It will be up to the conference committee to decide which version prevails.

Regardless of which party controls the chamber when the 116th Congress is seated in January, Ryan, who is retiring, will be gone. And if legalization supporters have their way, so will Sessions.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Analysis: GOP Congress Has Blocked Dozens Of Marijuana Amendments

 

 

 

 

Congress Could Vote On These Marijuana Amendments Next Week (Unless GOP Blocks Them Again)

Congress Could Vote On These Marijuana Amendments Next Week (Unless GOP Blocks Them Again)

The U.S. House of Representatives could vote next week on amendments that would let marijuana businesses access banks and allow the city of Washington, D.C. to spend its own money on legalizing and regulating recreational cannabis sales.

That’s if Republican leaders don’t block their colleagues from even being able to consider the measures on the floor.

The House Rules Committee, led by ardent prohibitionist Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) has already stymied nearly three dozen cannabis amendments from advancing during the current Congress, as shown by a Marijuana Moment analysis earlier this week. Exactly zero marijuana-related measures have been cleared by GOP leaders for floor votes since the summer of 2016.

Analysis: GOP Congress Has Blocked Dozens Of Marijuana Amendments

But that hasn’t stopped a growing bipartisan list of lawmakers who support cannabis law reform from continuing to try.

The two newly proposed amendments on banking and D.C. are being offered to a large-scale bill to fund parts of the federal government for Fiscal Year 2019. The legislation is expected to be considered by the Rules Committee next week before being sent to the floor.

The pending D.C. measure would allow the city to expand on its current voter-approved law that allows adults to legally use, possess and grow small amounts of marijuana. An ongoing federal appropriations rider has prevented officials from adding a system of taxed and regulated cannabis sales.

The amendment, filed by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), with the support of Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), would strip the marijuana regulation ban from the budget bill so the city could spend its own money enacting whatever cannabis laws it sees fit.

“I will expose any Member who interferes in D.C.’s local affairs so their constituents see them focusing on our business instead of theirs by trying to force a vote on the House floor on each and every anti-home-rule rider,” Norton said in a press release that also addressed other measures she filed to beat back congressional interference in the district’s lawmaking processes.

The second new cannabis amendment would prevent federal regulators from punishing a bank “solely because the institution provides financial services to an entity that is a manufacturer, producer, or a person that participates in any business or organized activity that involves handling marijuana or marijuana products and engages in such activity pursuant to a law established by a State or a unit of local government.”

Similar amendments to let cannabis businesses access banks were defeated in by House and Senate Appropriations committees last month.

A marijuana banking measure was approved on the House floor in 2014 by a margin of 231 to 192, but its language was not included in final enacted legislation that year.

The current amendment is sponsored by Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA), along with Rohrabacher, Blumenauer, Lee, and Norton. They are joined by Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Jared Polis (D-CO), Dina Titus (D-NV), Don Young (R-AK), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Jason Lewis (R-MN), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI).

That is by far the most cosponsors of any of the 229 amendments filed on the pending FY2019 funding bill so far.

But huge bipartisan cosponsor lists haven’t prevented Pete Sessions and the Rules Committee from preventing floor votes on cannabis measures for the past several years. It remains to be seen if this time will be different.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Congress Could Vote On These Marijuana Amendments Next Week (Unless GOP Blocks Them Again)

Congress Will Consider These Marijuana Amendments Next Week

Congress Will Consider These Marijuana Amendments Next Week

A powerful congressional panel is set to weigh four marijuana measures next week.

One proposal would allow military veterans to receive medical cannabis recommendations from their doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Another would protect veterans from losing access to their VA benefits as a punishment for medical marijuana use. A third would shield VA employees who are veterans and who use marijuana in accordance with state law from being fired. And another concerns water rights for marijuana and hemp growers.

Lawmakers filed the cannabis proposals as amendments to a large-scale funding bill expected to be considered in the House next week.

But first, the Rules Committee will decide whether the measures will even be allowed to reach the floor for up-or-down votes.

That panel’s chairman, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), has made a practice of blocking any and all cannabis amendments over the course of the past several years, so getting the measures to the floor where they can be considered by the full House may be a heavy lift for supporters.

But because the amendments directly concern military veterans, it may be politically more difficult than usual for Sessions to get away with crushing the marijuana measures, especially as the midterm election approaches.

Previous versions of the amendment to let VA physicians issue medical cannabis recommendations have been approved by the House and Senate, but have never been enacted into law, and Sessions’s panel has specifically blocked that measure in the past.

But the VA proposals concerning benefits protections and employment rights are new, so the chairman hasn’t specifically weighed in on them before.

Earlier this month, the Rules Committee prevented a series of hemp-related amendments to the Farm Bill from being considered.

Congress Considers Three Hemp Amendments To Farm Bill

Supporters are seeking to attach the current amendments to legislation to fund parts of the federal government for Fiscal Year 2019, namely the VA and military construction efforts, as well as energy and water programs. Also being considered as part of the bill are funds for the legislative branch.

For now, here is a look at each pending cannabis measure that will be up for debate by Rules Committee members — and potentially the full House — next week:

Allow Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to issue medical cannabis recommendations, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR):

AMENDMENT TO DIVISION C OF RULES COMMITTEE PRINT 115–71 OFFERED BY MR. BLUMENAUER OF OREGON

At the end of division C (before the short title), insert the following:

SEC. ___. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to implement, administer, or enforce Veterans Health Administration Directive 2011-004 (or directive of the same substance) with respect to the prohibition on ‘‘VA providers from completing forms seeking recommendations or opinions regarding a Veteran’s participation in a State marijuana program’’.

Protect military veterans from losing access to benefits for using medical cannabis, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR):

AMENDMENT TO DIVISION C OF RULES COMMITTEE PRINT 115–71 OFFERED BY MR. BLUMENAUER OF OREGON

At the end of division C (before the short title), insert the following:

SEC. ___. (a) None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to reduce or eliminate benefits provided by the Secretary to an individual pursuant to title 38, United States Code, or any other law administered by the Secretary, by reason of the individual using medical marijuana in compliance with the laws of the covered State in which the individual resides.

(b) In this section, the term ‘‘covered State’’ means Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico.

Protect employment rights of veterans who work for the Department of Veterans Affairs and use marijuana in accordance with state laws, Reps. Charlie Crist (D-FL) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR):

AMENDMENT TO DIVISION C OF RULES COMMITTEE PRINT 115–71 OFFERED BY MR. CRIST OF FLORIDA

At the end of division C (before the short title), insert the following:

SEC. ___. (a) None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to deny the employment of a veteran, or take any other adverse personnel action against an employee of the Department of Veterans Affairs who is a veteran, by reason of the veteran’s off-the-job use of marijuana in compliance with the laws of the covered State in which the veteran resides.

(b) In this section, the term ‘‘covered State’’ means Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico.

Protect water rights of marijuana and hemp growers, Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR):

AMENDMENT TO DIVISION A OF RULES COMMITTEE PRINT 115–71

OFFERED BY MR. POLIS OF COLORADO

At the end of division A (before the short title), insert the following:

LIMITATION ON USE OF FUNDS TO ENFORCE OR IMPLE2 MENT TEMPORARY RECLAMATION MANUAL RELEASE PEC TRMR-63

SEC. ___. None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to enforce or implement Temporary Reclamation Manual Release PEC TRMR-63.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Congress Will Consider These Marijuana Amendments Next Week

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