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Congress Explores Cannabis Policies

On Wednesday January 15th, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a hearing entitled “Cannabis Policies for the New Decade,” which can be viewed in full here. As part of our continuing efforts to engage Capitol Hill, NAADAC monitored the hearing closely and is reviewing the slate of proposals raised during Wednesday’s discussion.

The hearing set out to examine the growing contrast, in recent years, between state and federal law with regard to cannabis policy. While an increasing number of states are permitting medical and recreational use of marijuana, experts, like the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Nora Volkow, MD, warn of the potency of today’s cannabis and the critical need for research on its health consequences.

In addition to examining the current landscape, the hearing went on to explore a number of the discussions facing lawmakers in Congress today, including rescheduling or legalizing marijuana, providing a safe harbor for patients and veterans who use medical marijuana, streamlining cannabis research processes, and federal efforts to review and approve cannabidiol products. While there was wide agreement about the need to expand research, lawmakers remained split on the issues of de-scheduling and decriminalizing.

Lawmakers on the panel heard from witnesses from the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse and asked questions about a number of legislative proposals on the topic, including:

  • H.R. 171, the "Legitimate Use of Medicinal Marihuana Act"
  • H.R. 601, the "Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2019"
  • H.R. 1151, the "Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act"
  • H.R. 2843, the "Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act"
  • H.R. 3797, the "Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2019"
  • H.R. 3884, the "Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act”

One noteworthy exchange occurred between Representatives Buddy Carter (R-GA) and Tony Cardenas (D-CA) on the issue of reclassifying marijuana. Carter argued against recreational use and in favor of reclassifying marijuana as a schedule II drug, before ultimately referring to it as a “gateway drug.” Cardenas argued that any discussion about gateway drugs ought to include alcohol and nicotine.

Over the course of three hours, committee members and witnesses engaged in a lively debate. Given the interest and participation generated by the hearing, NAADAC expects the topic to receive additional attention in the very near future. We will be monitoring this issue closely and will be sure to keep you updated as new developments unfold.