House approves more amendments to marijuana defense bill, including access to banking and medical care for veterans


The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved several marijuana reform amendments as part of a sweeping defense bill, including proposals to protect banks that work with drug companies. legal cannabis and allow US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) physicians to dispense medical marijuana. recommendations.

A total of nine drug policy measures were passed by the House as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this week, after being put in order for consideration by the rules committee on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the House first approved a bipartisan pair of psychedelic research amendments, along with another measure requiring a military study of marijuana-related discrimination in the armed forces. These were part of the first set of block measures that were taken on the floor.

The following packages contained a wide range of cannabis proposals. An amendment by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) that advocates and stakeholders are watching very closely contains language from the Safe and Fair Banking (SAFE) Act, which would protect financial institutions that serve marijuana businesses state legal. penalized by federal regulators.

Perlmutter discussed the measure in the Rules Committee on Tuesday, arguing that it is relevant to defense legislation because it could help combat international drug trafficking, which poses a national security risk. The House passed the amendment as part of last year’s NDAA, but the Senate did not follow suit, so it was not included in the final bill.

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The congressman also attempted to include marijuana banking reform in a large-scale manufacturing bill in bicameral conference, but leaders agreed to exclude the language, prompting him to chase another vehicle.

Meanwhile, an amendment by Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Brian Mast (R-FL) to codify that VA physicians can discuss and issue recommendations for medical cannabis to veterans also passed the House.

In a letter from a dear colleague that was shared with Marijuana Moment, Blumenauer and Mast spoke about the unique therapeutic potential of cannabis for veterans with PTSD and argued that the VA’s current policy prohibiting doctors from ‘Issue Recommendations’ requires veterans to seek care outside of VA to receive advice and recommendations on this care option.

“VA physicians should not be denied the opportunity to offer a recommendation that they believe can meet the needs of their patients,” they wrote. “Veterans should not be forced out of the VA system to seek legal treatment in their state.”

On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Blumenauer, separately filed an amendment to an appropriations minibus that would block VA from preventing military veterans from using medical cannabis while allowing its doctors to fill out referrals for patients who wish to participate in state programs.

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) pushed through an amendment to the NDAA that also grants that authority to VA physicians, but it goes further by prohibiting federal employers from discriminating against veterans who use or have used marijuana.

The House also approved a revised measure from Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) that expresses Congress’s sentiment that VA should not deny home loans to veterans because they derive income from a legal marijuana business. by the state. The proposal was originally presented as an outright ban on such refusals, but has been changed to a non-binding form.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) won two drug policy changes at the NDAA. The one that passed Wednesday builds on a measure by Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), requiring the Department of Defense (DOD) to study marijuana as an alternative to opioids in treating service members with post-stress disorder. -traumatic (PTSD), traumatic brain injury and severe pain. Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal expands the scope of this research to include psilocybin and MDMA.

Then on Thursday, the congresswoman’s amendment to prevent the use of funds for aerial fumigation of drug crops in Colombia passed. This practice has been widely criticized by reform and human rights advocates.

The other psychedelic amendment that cleared the chamber Wednesday was sponsored by Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX). This would allow the Secretary of Defense to approve grants for research into the therapeutic potential of certain psychedelics such as MDMA, psilocybin, ibogaine and 5-MeO-DMT for active duty service members with PTSD.

Notably, an earlier, identical version of the was not made for the ground as part of last year’s NDAA, signaling that attitudes towards psychedelics have changed in Congress in recent months.

On Wednesday, the House also passed a measure by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) that would require the DOD to study the “historically discriminatory manner in which marijuana offense laws have been enforced, the potential for discriminatory enforcement continuation of the law”. (whether intentional or not), and recommendations on steps that can be taken to minimize the risk of such discrimination. »

Finally, lawmakers on Thursday passed an amendment tabled by Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ). It aims to eliminate the federal sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine.

Lawmakers who sponsored the reforms welcomed their inclusion in the NDAA.

“It is time to do it – and I will pursue all legislative avenues to do so,” Perlmutter said of his banking measure in a press release. “This is a new opportunity for the Senate to push forward common sense cannabis reforms, starting with access to the banking system. I ask them to take action for the safety of our communities and the success of veteran and minority-owned businesses across the country.

Meanwhile, the co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus—Blumenauer and Mast, along with Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Dave Joyce (R-OH), released a joint statement saying that “the need to establish a system more rational approach to federal cannabis policy has never been greater.

“More than 91% of the US population lives in states where adult cannabis use is legal in some form. Yet outdated and archaic federal regulations on the sale, distribution and ability to access basic economic services continue to disproportionately harm countless communities, including our veterans,” they said, adding that the adoption of the new provisions is “an important step in remedying the problem. the federal government’s failed approach to cannabis through common-sense bipartisan politics.

The Perlmutters, Blumenauers and Clarks measures on banks and veterans were adopted as part of an en bloc package with dozens of other amendments by a roll call vote of 277 to 150, and the Ocasio-Cortez proposal on drug crop fumigation was included in another group that was passed with a vote of 330 to 99. All other amendments passed in separate packages via voice votes.

What remains to be seen is which of these amendments, if any, will make it through the conference after the Senate advances its version of the NDAA. The chamber has generally been seen as an obstacle to passing drug policy reform, especially with Republican minority leaders who frequently dispute the amendment’s appropriateness.

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Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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