Legislation to end the federal prohibition of cannabis has been submitted in the U.S. Senate by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). S. 420’s companion proposals, including H.R. 420, were submitted in the House last week by Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).
“The American people have elected the most pro-cannabis Congress in American history and significant pieces of legislation are being introduced,” said Blumenauer. “The House is doing its work and with the help of Senator Wyden’s leadership in the Senate, we will break through.” “I introduced S.420, my bill to legalize and responsibly regulate and tax marijuana,” Wyden tweeted on February 8. “It’s time to bring our country’s marijuana policies into the 21st century, and my legislation is the way to do it.”
S. 420 was introduced on Friday, February 8 as part of a legislative package consisting of three different proposals being called the Path To Marijuana Reform.
The first one, Small Business Tax Equity Act, proposes that legal cannabis businesses should be allowed to claim tax deductions just like any other small business. Currently, they may not claim tax deductions or credits because cannabis remains a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. This amendment was enacted in 1982 after a narcotics dealer claimed expenses associated with the sale of illegal drugs on his taxes. Now that more than half of the states in the nation have legalized cannabis for either medicinal or recreational purposes, those state-legal businesses deserve to be able to operate as such.
The second, Responsibly Addressing the Marijuana Policy Gap Act, permits states to determine their own cannabis laws, thereby “reducing the gap between federal and state laws.” As long as individuals and businesses are operating under state law, this proposal would remove the risk of federal criminal penalties. It also allows legal cannabis businesses to have access to normal banking services, permits U.S. veterans access to medical marijuana, and protects the rights of Native American tribes to grow and sell marijuana on tribal land.
The third bill in the legislative package is called the Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act. This proposal would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, effectively de-scheduling it. It also seeks to tax and regulate cannabis products in the same way that alcohol and tobacco currently are, imposing an excise tax on the sale of cannabis. Federal permits from the Department of Treasury would also be issued to cannabis producers, importers, and wholesalers. “The federal prohibition of marijuana is wrong, plain and simple. Too many lives have been wasted, and too many economic opportunities have been missed,” Wyden said in a press release. “It’s time Congress make the changes Oregonians and Americans across the country are demanding.”
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is following through on a promise to use large-scale agriculture and food policy legislation as a vehicle to legalize hemp.
The GOP leader announced on Friday that he successfully inserted hemp provisions into the Farm Bill, which is expected to move through committee next week.
“Securing the Hemp Farming Act as part of the 2018 Farm Bill has been a top priority of mine,” McConnell said in a press release. “As a result of the hemp pilot program, which I secured in the 2014 Farm Bill, Kentucky’s farmers, processors, and manufacturers have begun to show the potential for this versatile crop. Today’s announcement will build upon that progress to help the Commonwealth enhance its standing at the forefront of hemp’s return to American agriculture. I look forward to continuing to work with my Senate colleagues and my partners in Kentucky – including Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles — to grow hemp’s bright future.”
“Hemp has proven itself as a job-creating growth industry with far-reaching economic potential. It’s just common sense that farmers in Oregon and across our country should be allowed to cultivate this cash crop,” Wyden said in McConnell’s new press release. “Our bipartisan legislation strikes America’s outdated anti-hemp laws from the books so American consumers can buy products made with hemp grown in America. I’m grateful to Sen. McConnell for his leadership in getting the Hemp Farming Act into the Senate Farm Bill and I’m proud to keep working with our bipartisan cosponsors – Senators Merkley and Paul – to pass our bill into law.”
I’m proud my bipartisan #HempFarmingAct is included in the Senate #FarmBill. Hemp is a job-creating growth industry with far-reaching economic potential. It’s common sense that farmers in Oregon and across the U.S. should be allowed to cultivate this cash crop. pic.twitter.com/a5tVo3ctGs
When Congress last revised the Farm Bill, in 2014, McConnell was able to insert language shielding state industrial hemp research programs from federal interference. He and other supporters have included similar protections in annual spending bills as well.
While hemp products such as food, clothing and other consumer goods are legal to sell in the U.S., cultivation of the plant is banned outside of the limited exemption for state research programs, so manufacturers must in many cases import the raw materials from other countries that do no prohibit hemp farming.
That would change if the hemp provisions of the new Farm Bill make it to President Trump’s desk and are signed into law. In addition to removing hemp from the federal definition of marijuana, the Farm Bill provisions would make it eligible for federal crop insurance.
Last month, House Republicans blocked floor votes on several hemp-related amendments to that chamber’s version of the Farm Bill. But if the provisions get past the Senate, McConnell’s leadership and passion for the issue means they stand a good chance of being included in the final legislation that will be crafted by a House-Senate conference committee for delivery to the president.
Despite McConnell’s work on hemp, he does not support legalizing its psychoactive cannabis cousin marijuana, however. Despite the fact that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has joined McConnell’s hemp bill as a cosponsor, the GOP leader said he won’t be backinghis Democratic counterpart’s forthcoming bill to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act.
“These are two entirely separate plants,” McConnell said. “There is a lot of confusion about what hemp is. It has an illicit cousin, which I choose not to embrace.”
A member of Congress just brought two baskets full of cannabis products onto the floor of the United States Senate.
But not the kind that gets you high.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), as part of a weeklong series of actions on Capitol Hill in support of industrial hemp, pointed to his collection of non-psychoactive cannabis-based foods and cosmetics during a speech on Wednesday.
“It is Hemp History Week again, and that is why I’m back on the Senate floor to talk about the only Schedule One controlled substance that you can sew into a t-shirt and wear through TSA,” he said.
Directing a staffer who accompanied him on the floor to hold up the hemp products, Wyden said:
“He’s got a few Schedule One snack bars. He’s got some Schedule One hand soap. He’s even wearing a Schedule One necktie. The point is, they’re all perfectly legal products you’ll find on shelves in stores throughout the nation, but because the hemp had to be imported, none of it could be considered fully American-made.”
Wyden, who talked about seeing many hemp foods stocked on the shelves of his local grocery store, decried the fact that the products can only be made with crops that are grown in other countries and imported to the U.S.
“There can’t be many policies on the books that are more anti-farmer than that one,” he said. “Hemp growers in places like Canada and China must just be laughing all the way to the bank. They’re cashing in, while our farmers have their hands tied by the current hemp restrictions.”
“If you can buy it at a supermarket in America, our farmers ought to be allowed to grow it in America.”
Hemp and marijuana are both varietals of the cannabis plant. And, under current federal law, they are both treated as illegal Schedule I substances (with some limited exceptions).
The nonbinding measure was brought to the floor by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who separately filed a bill to legalize hemp and has announced plans to insert its language into the larger Farm Bill that is moving through Congress.
The standalone bill already has nearly a third of all senators signed on as cosponsors.
“Hemp is not a drug, and treating it like one was wrong from the get-go,” Wyden said in the Wednesday floor speech. “Smoking hemp would be nothing but a waste of time, breath and lighter fluid. It defies common sense that our laws consider hemp to be dangerous and addictive like crystal meth. Having one too many hemp granola bars might give you a stomach ache, but it you aren’t going to land in the hospital.”
Happy #HempWeek! I’m headed to the Senate floor to speak in celebration of #HempHistoryWeek and to encourage my Senate colleagues to end the anti-farming restrictions on growing industrial hemp.
The Oregon senator also gave a bit of a lesson on the crop’s important role in American history.
“Before growing hemp was made illegal, hemp was among the predominant American crops for generations. It was grown in the fields of Mount Vernon,” he said. “It was threaded into the ropes and sails of the first ships made for the United Stats Navy.
“If hemp was easier to rhyme, it might even have its own lyric in ‘America the Beautiful’ right alongside the amber waves of grain.”
Wyden also took to the Senate floor bearing a bounty of hemp products last year
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
President Trump is preparing to support far-reaching legislation to reform federal marijuana prohibition so that states can enact their own cannabis laws without interference.
“Since the campaign, President Trump has consistently supported states’ rights to decide for themselves how best to approach marijuana,” U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) said in a statement. “Late Wednesday, I received a commitment from the President that the Department of Justice’s rescission of the Cole memo will not impact Colorado’s legal marijuana industry. Furthermore, President Trump has assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all.”
In a briefing with reporters on Friday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed the development, calling Gardner’s statement “accurate.”
“We’re always consulting Congress about issues including states’ rights, of which the president is a firm believer,” she said.
Sanders revealed that Trump and Gardner spoke about the issue several times in recent days, including on Friday.
The news of the legislative deal, which was first reported by the Washington Post, comes after Gardner placed a hold on Justice Department nominees in protest of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s rescinding of Obama-era guidance that has generally allowed states to implement their own marijuana laws without federal interference.
Now, things have changed.
“Because of these commitments [to support marijuana legislation], I have informed the Administration that I will be lifting my remaining holds on Department of Justice nominees,” Gardner said. “My colleagues and I are continuing to work diligently on a bipartisan legislative solution that can pass Congress and head to the President’s desk to deliver on his campaign position.”
A source close to the discussions, who was not authorized to speak on the record, told Marijuana Moment that Sessions was not a party to the new deal between the White House and Gardner.
Details of the legislation are yet to be announced, but in a Facebook Live interview with KDVR-TV in Denver, Gardner said it would be a “universal fix” for federal issues faced by cannabis businesses, including access to banks.
In an interview with The Cannabist, Gardner added that he “would envision this legislation taking care of” tax issues as well.
The Colorado senator also said that he and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) are close to finalizing a draft bill, which will be “hopefully moving soon.”
Neal Levine of the New Federalism Fund called the news a “game changer,” saying in an interview that “if we’re going to have legislation that ends prohibition on the federal level in any state that’s opted out of prohibition in some form, those issues [like banking] are all going to be resolved.”
Trump repeatedly pledged during the 2016 presidential campaign that he would respect state marijuana laws, a promise called into question when Sessions rescinded the Obama Justice Department’s memo in January.
A timetable hasn’t been set for the new marijuana legislation, though it will be crafted by a bipartisan working group of senators.
Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), one of the House’s leading champions for marijuana law reform, praised the news but urged caution.
“This is another head spinning moment. We should hope for the best, but not take anything for granted. Trump changes his mind constantly, and Republican leadership is still in our way,” he said in a statement. “Momentum is clearly building in the states and here in DC. The tide is changing. Now is the time to redouble our efforts.”
We can’t take anything for granted. Trump changes with the wind & GOP leadership is still in our way. We need to protect the integrity of state-legal marijuana programs by acting NOW.
The federal government must respect the decision Oregonians made at the polls. I’m going to keep fighting to protect Oregon’s legal marijuana program and pushing for national reform. https://t.co/807gS9Jnf2
While confirming that Trump “does respect Colorado’s right to decide for themselves how to best approach this issue,” White House legislative affairs director Marc Short also told the Washington Post that the White House is frustrated with Gardner’s tactic of blocking presidential nominees.
“Clearly, we’ve expressed our frustration with the delay with a lot of our nominees and feel that too often, senators hijack a nominee for a policy solution,” he said. “So we’re reluctant to reward that sort of behavior. But at the same time, we’re anxious to get our team at the Department of Justice.”
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
In late December 2015, lost amongst the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, office parties, and spiked egg nog, a group of eight U.S. senators, all Democrats, sent a letter to three high-level bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., one each at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Senators Barbara Boxer (California), Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey (Massachusetts), Cory Booker (New Jersey), Kirsten Gillibrand (New York), Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden (Oregon), and Barbara Mikulski (Maryland) sent a nearly four-page letter to the acting officers of these government agencies. Conspicuously absent from the author list was Republican senator and libertarian torch bearer Rand Paul (Kentucky), possibly due to his presidential campaign.
Paul, along with junior senators Booker and Gillibrand, in early 2015 sponsored the CARERS Act, bi-partisan legislation that would further force the federal government to recognize a state’s right to legalize cannabis for any reason, reclassify the herb as Schedule II (it is currently Schedule I), eliminate several barriers to research, and — most important — make it easier for military veterans to obtain recommendations for medical cannabis from Veterans Affairs doctors (most notably for PTSD, depression, and anxiety).
More specifically, the target of the letter was Chuck Rosenberg, the Acting Administrator of the DEA, Michael Botticelli, Director of the ONDCP, and Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the Secretary of HHS. Rosenberg made headlines in late 2015 when he discounted the medicinal properties of cannabis and the efficacy gained by millions of patients nationwide, calling med pot a “joke” and saying that cannabis “never has been shown to be safe or effective as a medicine.”
Call for Collaboration
The letter pointed out the need for a wide range of government agencies and research organizations to somehow combine their efforts to reach the goal of more comprehensive medical cannabis research. Wrote the senators in the opening of their letter:
“…there is a need and unique opportunity for federal agencies to collaborate with each other…”
The letter stressed the “unique opportunity” for states to conduct population-based, clinical, “and other basic research on the risks and benefits of medical marijuana.” The letter went on to note the hurdles and barriers to federally-authorized cannabis research that are supported or maintained by a variety of government agencies. It identified the current regulatory scheme for medical cannabis research as “outdated and in desperate need of serious and immediate review.”
Areas of Focus
The letter focused on five key points, as summarized below:
Supply Limits. The senators questioned the ability of a single farm at the University of Mississippi to produce an adequate supply of high-quality, “medical grade” cannabis for multiple research studies nationwide. The pot farm at the University of Mississippi holds the only bulk manufacture permit issued by the DEA and has cultivated and produced cannabis that many patients, physicians, and experts have labeled low-quality and as offering relatively little medicinal benefit. Thus, any study conducted in the United States using this low-quality herb would result in lower efficacy rates among participants — in essence, rigging the game for those who oppose medical pot.
Rescheduling. Cannabis, which currently is part of Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act, has been argued as a logical candidate for a lower ranking, such as Schedule II or III. The Food and Drug Administration has completed an analysis of the rescheduling of cannabis, and, it appears, HHS has provided “scientific and medical evaluations, as well as a scheduling recommendation” to the DEA. The query from the senators: What was the recommendation, and what is the timetable for review of the recommendation? This section of the letter also calls for the rescheduling of CBD oil.
Interagency Coordination. Echoing one of the primary themes of the letter, coordination and cooperation, its authors cite a research application approval process that is “long, cumbersome, and difficult to navigate.” The senators request that the recipients explain how they “plan to work together to encourage qualified research applications” and asks them to describe the application process for qualified cannabis researchers.
Surveillance and Epidemiological Studies. Such studies would gather data regarding how cannabis is actually being used, both medically and recreationally. The letter specifically calls for an investigation of cannabis use in “diverse populations and with multiple modes of administration.” If this actually occurred, government authorities would gather some rare insight into the economic and social aspects of cannabis consumption among a wide variety of demographic groups.
Coordination with States. The senators would like to see “regular and organized communication” between agencies like HHS and state organizations such as public health departments — especially those in legal medical or recreational states like Michigan, California, Colorado, and Oregon — from which invaluable data can be obtained for further analysis or consideration from a national perspective.
The senators requested responses to their inquiries by January 31, 2016.
Photo credit: MSNBC, CBS News
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