by Michelle Rutter Friberg, NCIA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations
While it got off to a slow start, the 118th Congress is finally in full swing. Let’s take a look at some of the latest cannabis and government relations news coming out of Washington, D.C.:
Bills are being introduced
When a new Congress begins, all legislation from the last session must be re-introduced and start from scratch again in the legislative process. Over the last few weeks, a couple of cannabis bills have been reintroduced: two from Congressman Greg Steube (R-FL) and one from Congressman Alex Mooney (R-WV).
Rep. Mooney was the first to introduce a cannabis bill for the 118th Congress when he released his Second Amendment Protection Act. Last Congress, a similar bill was filed by the late Rep. Don Young (R-AK) known as the Gun Rights And Marijuana (GRAM) Act. The full text of the new measure is not yet available so it’s unclear what exactly the bill contains, but advocates expect the bill to be similar to the version Mooney introduced in the 116th Congress. Interestingly, although federal law explicitly prohibits all Americans who consume or possess marijuana from purchasing or possessing a firearm, a judge in Oklahoma late last week declared that ban unconstitutional.
Congressman Steube’s two bills were the Veterans Cannabis Use for Safe Healing Act and the Marijuana 1-to-3 Act. The former prohibits the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from denying a veteran any VA benefit due to participation in a state-approved marijuana program. For veterans participating in these approved programs, the VA must ensure its healthcare providers both discuss marijuana use with such veterans and adjust treatment plans accordingly and record such use in the veterans’ medical records. The latter bill, the Marijuana 1 to 3 Act, has been introduced by Rep. Steube in past sessions and seeks to do exactly what the title says: reschedule cannabis to Schedule 3 – a reform that would not resolve the federal conflict with the vast majority of state laws with some form of legal cannabis
A SAFE Bet?
The cannabis industry may have been devastated when Congress failed to pass the SAFE Banking Act last Congress, but we’re not giving up yet! Congressional champions have every intention of reintroducing SAFE in both chambers, but don’t expect the bill to look identical to last session.
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Schumer held a closed-door meeting with a number of other Democratic Senators to discuss what’s next for the bill. Reportedly, the Senators discussed changing the text of the bill to reflect some of the “SAFE +” language that was negotiated at the end of 2022, including the HOPE Act. It’s currently unclear if the House’s version will be identical.
Committees Finally Seated
It took Congress longer than usual to seat committees this session – particularly in the House – but we now know which members will have jurisdiction over which issue areas. Our friends at Politico put together an extensive list, but some committees I’ll be keeping my eye on include the House Judiciary Committee, the Senate Banking Committee, and the Appropriations Committees in both chambers.
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