Marijuana Licensing Bill Has ‘Negligible’ Fiscal Impacts, Congressional Budget Office Says

Marijuana Licensing Bill Has ‘Negligible’ Fiscal Impacts, Congressional Budget Office Says

marijuana research bill approved by a key U.S. House committee last month would have a “negligible” effect on direct federal spending, according a new analysis from Congress’s official fiscal analyst.

The legislation would force the Department of Justice to begin issuing more licenses to growers of cannabis to be used in scientific research, an issue that has been a contentious one between the Trump administration and members of Congress, including Republicans.

But its fiscal impact would be slim, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said in a two-page cost estimate released on Wednesday.

In the closing months of the Obama administration, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) created a process to expand on the sole approved cultivator that has had a monopoly on the U.S. supply of marijuana for studies for half a century. But under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department has refused to act on the more than two dozen applications filed through the new program by would-be legal growers.

The situation has led to a series of bipartisan sign-on letters and testy lines of questioning for Sessions during oversight hearings in both the House and Senate, culminating in the passage of the bill last month by the House Judiciary Committee to force the attorney general’s hand by requiring more licenses on a certain timetable.

The long-term projection is that “enacting the legislation would not increase net direct spending or on budget deficits in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2029,” CBO wrote in the new cost estimate about the bill.

Sponsored by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), the proposal hasn’t yet been scheduled for a floor vote. But while CBO is required to evaluate all bills approved by most congressional committees, the score’s release is a reminder that it’s being taken more seriously than most of the hundreds of other pieces of cannabis-focused legislation that have been filed on Capitol Hill over the years.

“CBO estimates that only a few new manufacturers would be registered each year,” the office reasoned, citing unspecified “information” from the Department of Justice.

Another provision of the bill would direct DEA to work with the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Food and Drug Administration to issue recommendations for good manufacturing practices for growing marijuana.

“The administrative costs associated with publishing such recommendations within 6 months of enactment would be less than $500,000 over the 2019-2023 period,” CBO found.

A third section would authorize the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to refer military veterans to participate in clinical trials on marijuana’s potential medical benefits and encourage VA itself to conduct research on cannabis, two activities for which the department currently has authority but has been reluctant to pursue without more clear direction from Congress.

“Because VA already has those authorities under current law, CBO estimates that implementing this section would have insignificant costs,” the office’s report says.

The low-cost findings are similar to a previous memo the office released after separate legislation to encourage VA to study medical cannabis became the first standalone marijuana reform bill ever approved by a congressional committee earlier this year when it was reported out favorably by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

In that case, CBO determined that the bill would “cost less than $500,000 over the 2019-2023 period, primarily to prepare and submit the necessary reports to the Congress” regarding updates on VA’s involvement in cannabis research.

The broader Gaetz legislation on research and cultivation licensing that the Judiciary Committee approved last month is only the second cannabis-focused bill to have cleared a congressional panel.

If enacted, “DOJ would collect registration fees of about $3,000 annually from each registrant,” CBO wrote in its new analysis. “Such fees are treated in the budget as reductions in direct spending, and DOJ is authorized to spend them without further appropriation.”

As a result, CBO also found that the bill would not “would not affect revenues” appreciably.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Marijuana Licensing Bill Has ‘Negligible’ Fiscal Impacts, Congressional Budget Office Says

Bipartisan Marijuana Speechathon On House Floor

Bipartisan Marijuana Speechathon On House Floor

A bipartisan group of lawmakers came together on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to chat about their shared interest in marijuana reform for about 20 minutes on Tuesday night.

“Medical marijuana is like the Fourth of July,” Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) said. “It is almost universally accepted.”

Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) took the opportunity to announce that he will soon introduce legislation — with the surprising support of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) — that would ease restrictions on cannabis research:

“First, it will increase the number of people who are growing medical-grade cannabis for research purposes.

“Second, it will end the gag rule at the VA that precludes physicians from being able to consult and speak with their patients about the laws in their particular States.

“Third, it will create a safe harbor so that some of the finest medical institutions and universities in this great country will be able to research and partner with private sector entities to determine the potential that medical cannabis can have to improve people’s quality of life.

“And finally, this legislation will end the prohibition from having commercial, for-profit entities working in concert, in collaboration with some of those very universities and medical institutions.”

Congressman Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), who convened the floor gathering, tore into U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session’s anti-marijuana moves.

“It is difficult for me to comprehend the logic behind blocking scientific research to analyze the medical applications of cannabis because I believe it is critical for policymakers to possess objective data on the effectiveness of cannabis as an alternative treatment for anxiety, depression, pain, psychosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, opioid addiction, and epilepsy. We owe it to American patients to open up the field of research on this,” he said on the floor. “Now, the only logical explanation I can think of is that the Attorney General knows the facts of this field of research won’t support his policies or the witch hunt he and his Department have been conducting on legal State-regulated operators across the country.”

Curbelo argued that Sessions’s rescission of an Obama-era policy protecting state marijuana laws was a gift to drug cartels.

“As I have said before in this Chamber, Mr. Speaker, the best ally that illegal operators like drug cartels and drug traffickers–who do not pay taxes, who target children, who have no safety standards for their products–the best ally they have are the policies that the Attorney General has embraced,” he said. “Because by continuing to hamstring Federal research, over tax, and stoke uncertainty, legally operating businesses that are State regulated, that pay taxes, that are helping patients who are suffering, can no longer compete. And when these businesses can no longer compete, people turn to the black market. So inadvertently, I hope, the Attorney General is actually doing a great favor to the criminals operating outside the law by punishing law-abiding Americans trying to control the substance and make it safer.”

The Florida GOP congressman closed by appealing to fellow Republicans’ professed reverence for individual liberty.

“Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of colleagues in this Chamber who say people should be able to buy whatever health insurance or get whatever kind of health coverage they want, and the government should interfere as little as possible, and I agree,” he said. “But on this issue, there seems to be a hypocrisy, and many colleagues want to impose a Federal view or a Federal perspective on States, on the people of States like Florida, who have already decided explicitly and clearly and overwhelmingly.”

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Bipartisan Marijuana Speechathon On House Floor

 

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