No cannabis amendments
No cannabis amendments

Same Old Banana in the Tailpipe for Marijuana Legalization - Republicans Block Every Cannabis Legalization Amendment

The GOP-controlled house blocks every cannabis and psychedelics amendement from floor voting

Posted by:
Chiara C on Friday Jul 21, 2023

weed amendments no vote

Don't say you haven't heard this song before, in fact, over and over, but as Marijuana Moment first reported, the bipartisan efforts to introduce marijuana and psychedelics amendments into a major defense bill faced disappointment as they failed to progress to the floor. Lawmakers from both political spectrums proposed these amendments to be included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Despite numerous drug policy amendments being offered, the House Rules Committee, led by Republicans, opted against allowing any of them to advance to floor votes. This decision was made despite the impassioned testimonies of certain sponsors who urged the committee to consider them. In the early hours of Thursday, the committee released a second rule and a list of cleared amendments for the NDAA. The committee had already approved a set of relatively uncontroversial proposals last Tuesday. However, some unrelated amendments on issues like gender-affirming care and support for Ukraine have caused controversy. Advocates held onto hope that the drug policy reform measures would be reconsidered and approved when the committee revisited the bill, but unfortunately, those hopes were dashed.


Bipartisan Lawmakers' Rejected Amendments Seek to Address Cannabis and Psychedelic Issues in Defense Bill


The proposed amendments covered various critical issues related to cannabis and psychedelics. These included eliminating cannabis drug testing for individuals seeking to join the military, safeguarding federal workers from losing security clearances due to marijuana use, permitting Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) doctors to issue medical cannabis recommendations, allowing servicemembers to use CBD or other hemp-derived products, and exploring the therapeutic potential of certain psychedelics.


Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), the Democratic co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, who sponsored the amendment concerning medical cannabis recommendations for veterans residing in states with legal cannabis, jointly stated on Thursday in response to the GOP's blockage.


"In promoting equal access to state-legal medical marijuana programs for our veterans and preventing past cannabis use from disqualifying potential military applicants, our amendments enabled bipartisan progress in addressing the impact of the failed war on drugs," the lawmakers stated.


They expressed deep concern that the Republican majority chose not to address outdated military drug policies, which pose severe challenges in recruitment and retention. These policies deter qualified individuals from joining the armed services or hinder them from enlisting altogether. The lawmakers further emphasised the necessity of allowing equal access to medical marijuana for servicemembers and veterans, a privilege that is already available to most Americans in various states. They firmly believed that the armed services, veterans, and the American public deserve better treatment and support.


Amendments on Psychedelic Research and Cannabis Pilot Program Survive While Others Face Rejection

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), the sponsor of the amendment to end cannabis testing for military recruits, expressed his disappointment that these amendments did not receive approval for a vote in a statement to Marijuana Moment on Thursday. He highlighted the challenge of living in a gerontocracy within Congress, which often leads to a conservative perspective on drug policy.


The House Armed Services Committee had already linked two marijuana and psychedelics measures to the NDAA's original text, even though the amendments were rejected.


Rep. Morgan Luttrell (R-TX) has sponsored a bill that would force the defense secretary to conduct a clinical study on the therapeutic potential of psychedelics for active-duty military personnel suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injury, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy. This is one of the psychedelic measures. Psilocybin, MDMA, ibogaine, or DMT would be studied, and the secretary would be required to report back to Congress on the results of the trials within a year of the law's passage. Some of the defeated Rules Committee amendments sought to improve this phrase.


Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), who sponsors similar standalone legislation, sought to have the Rules Committee amend Luttrell's measure. He claimed that House Armed Services Committee staff had unauthorizedly removed funding provisions and altered the language to require clinical studies instead of clinical trials. However, the panel declined to follow suit, weakening the psychedelics amendment.


On the other hand, a cannabis amendment attached to the bill in the earlier committee calls for a Defense Department medical cannabis pilot program. This initiative would look at the effects that marijuana usage has on the health of veterans and active-duty military personnel who receive VA benefits. Participants in the VA program must suffer from PTSD, depression, or anxiety or have been prescribed pain medication to be eligible.


Marijuana and Psychedelics Amendments Blocked by the House Committee


The committee blocked the advancement of several marijuana and psychedelics amendments. One of the proposed amendments aimed to prohibit the denial of security clearances for defense department workers based solely on their legal use of marijuana at the state level. Another sought to prevent the requirement of drug testing for marijuana as a condition for military enlistment.


Another amendment mandated that the defense department submit its findings from the psychedelics trials to the VA, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and relevant congressional committees—not just the House Armed Services Committee as stated in the current legislation.


Another amendment was made to prevent the Department of Defense (DOD) from punishing military servicemembers for using CBD or other hemp-derived products. Then, a proposal aimed to allow VA doctors to issue medical cannabis recommendations to veterans living in states where marijuana is legalized for therapeutic purposes.


An amendment required the defense secretary to develop a plan to provide reenlistment waivers to service members who test positive for THC. Another amendment aimed to expand the existing psychedelics study provisions of the bill to create a DOD grant program for funding research on the therapeutic potential of these substances in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI).


In addition to the DOD-led clinical trial on psychedelics already included in the bill, there was a proposal to require the agency to provide a recommendation on the next steps for further exploring the therapeutic use of these substances in its report.


Lastly, there was an amendment expressing the sense of Congress that officials should investigate all potential therapies, including medicinal cannabis or psychedelics, to aid veterans in healing their visible and invisible wounds upon returning home.


Bottom Line


Bipartisan efforts to introduce marijuana and psychedelics amendments into the defense bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), faced disappointment as they failed to progress to the floor for a vote. Despite lawmakers from both political spectrums proposing these amendments to address critical issues related to cannabis and psychedelics, the House Rules Committee, led by Republicans, opted against allowing any of them to advance. This decision dashed hopes for drug policy reform measures within the defense bill, leaving advocates and sponsors expressing deep concern for outdated military drug policies and the lack of equal access to medical cannabis for servicemembers and veterans. Despite some unrelated amendments being approved, the rejection of drug policy reforms highlights the challenges and conservatism surrounding drug policy discussions in Congress.





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