By: Melissa Chapaska
As existing state marijuana programs thrive and new programs are implemented, an unprecedented amount of states are set to vote on marijuana initiatives this November. Despite growing state support of regulated marijuana programs and mounting research in support of its medicinal benefits, marijuana’s status under federal law continues to create uncertainty for state-legal marijuana entities and roadblocks for medical researchers. While states individually address the question of marijuana legalization, federal lawmakers have proposed a number of bills aimed at reconciling the state and federal conflict over marijuana laws.
Continue reading to find out more about pending federal legislation that Cannabis Law PA is following and be sure to subscribe to our blog and follow us on Twitter to receive up to the minute updates as these bills travel through Congress:
The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment is a rider to the federal spending bill that prohibits the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) from using the congressionally allocated funds “to prevent any of [the states] from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.” Recently, the Ninth Circuit in United States v. McIntosh found, over protests from DOJ, that this provision specifically restricts the DOJ from spending money to prosecute individuals who are in full compliance with the medical marijuana laws in the states where they operate. As part of a congressional spending bill, the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment must be renewed every year. Initially passed in 2014, the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment was the first time either chamber of Congress had ever voted in favor of a measure to relax federal marijuana laws or enforcement. As a result of bi-partisan support throughout the legislature, the amendment survived reauthorization last year.
On October 6, 2016, the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment was extended when Congress approved a temporary short-term spending bill. Congress is set to revisit FY 2017 spending, including the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, after the presidential election.
Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015
Introduced by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), co-sponsor of the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015, H.R. 1940, seeks to restrict the application of the CSA to individuals not in compliance with state laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marijuana. Introducing the bill to the House, Rep. Rohrabacher urged Congress to “respect states’ rights [and] local communities’ rights to control what is going on in their communities.”
Introduced to the House on May 15, 2015, the bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, Committee on the Judiciary, and Committee on Energy and Commerce and has not yet come up for a vote.
Seeking comprehensive marijuana reform, the CARERS Act would:
- Amend the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) as inapplicable to state-legal medical marijuana;
- Prohibit banking regulations that punish individuals or organizations based on their association with state-legal medical marijuana;
- Downgrade marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II under the federal drug classification system; and
- Remove CBD from the federal drug classification system.
- Directs the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to authorize health care providers to recommend state-legal medical marijuana to veterans.
In September 2016, three new democratic co-sponsors joined the Senate CARER’s Act. The Act was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee but has not yet received a vote. The House version of the bill also has yet to receive a vote.
Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act of 2015
Versions of the Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act of 2015 has been introduced in the Senate, S. 1726, and the House, H.R. 2076. These identical bills seek to provide a safe harbor for depository institutions providing financial services to state-legal marijuana businesses by prohibiting federal banking regulators from prohibiting, penalizing, terminating the insurance of, or otherwise discouraging depository institutions from offering banking services to marijuana-related businesses.
Both House and Senate versions of the bill have been referred to committees and await further action.
Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015
Introduced in the Senate by former prospective presidential nominee, Senator Bernie Sanders, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015, S. 2237, seeks to limit the application of federal laws to the distribution and consumption of marijuana by removing marijuana from the schedule of controlled substances and removing the prohibition of marijuana import and export under the CSA.
Introduced to the Senate in May of last year, the bill was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary and has not yet come up for vote.
Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2016
The Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2016, H.R. 5549, seeks to expand legitimate medical marijuana research by amending the CSA to make marijuana accessible for use by qualified medical marijuana researchers, and prohibiting DOJ interference with the production, distribution, and sale of marijuana for research.
Introduced in the House in June of this year, the bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations and has not yet come up for vote.
Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act
The Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act, S. 3269, seeks to expand research on the potential medical benefits of cannabidiol and other marijuana components and would require that the Attorney General make a determination as to whether cannabidiol should be a controlled substance and listed in a schedule under the CSA.
Introduced to the Senate in July of this year, the bill was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary and has not yet come up for vote.