GOP-Led Congressional Committee Passes Bill To Block Cannabis Rescheduling, Deny State Protections

Zinger Key Points
  • A spending bill advanced by a GOP-dominated House committee would prevent the Justice Department from reclassifying marijuana.
  • An amendment to extend these protections to all state and tribal cannabis operations, including recreational setups was rejected.

The GOP-led House Appropriations Committee passed a controversial spending bill on Tuesday with provisions aimed at obstructing the rescheduling of marijuana under federal law.

How? The bill specifically prevents the Department of Justice from reallocating funds to either reschedule or deschedule marijuana, a significant move amid ongoing discussions to reclassify cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act, noted Marijuana Moment which first reported the news.

This legislative action coincides with the DEA's proposal earlier this year to reconsider cannabis's scheduling, potentially easing restrictions on medical marijuana and scientific research.

Read Also: New Bipartisan Bill Proposes Expungement For Federal Cannabis Misdemeanor Offenses

The bill also amends existing regulations to impose stricter penalties for cannabis sales within proximity to schools and public parks, etc. emphasizing a tough stance on drug distribution near sensitive areas.

The amendment, noted the outlet, was added to an existing rider that has historically protected state medical marijuana programs from federal interference – a policy dating back to 2014.

In a notable rejection, the committee voted down an amendment proposed by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), which aimed to extend these protections to encompass all state and tribal cannabis programs, including recreational use. Lee has criticized the federal government's outdated stance on cannabis regulation, advocating for a more progressive approach in line with state-led innovations in cannabis policy.

Despite some bipartisan support for reform, as evidenced by Ohio's Rep. Dave Joyce (R), who spoke in favor of Lee’s amendment, the majority of the committee favored maintaining strict federal oversight. This ultimately led to the amendment's defeat by a voice vote.

"We should be empowering states to regulate the product how they see fit, and this amendment would help just do that," said Joyce, a co-chair of the Cannabis Caucus. "The disparity between state and federal policies have created a loophole that has allowed illicit operators to thrive and jeopardize public safety. It's time to close the loophole, make sure products are safe and out of the hands of youth."

To no one's surprise, the decision reflects the striking divisions within Congress on cannabis policy, especially concerning how the federal government should interact with state-level legalization efforts.

The outcome of this legislative process remains uncertain, particularly with respect to how the Democrat-controlled Senate will respond to the House's stance on cannabis rescheduling.

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Photo: Benzinga Edit from Kindel Media and Paula Nardini by Pexels

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