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House Rules Committee Blocks FY19 Marijuana Amendments

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director July 16, 2018

    Late Monday night, the House Rules Committee led by prohibitionist Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX) blocked two amendments related to marijuana from receiving consideration by the full House, thus ending their consideration and silencing the ability for the lower chamber to offer protections from Attorney General Jeff Sessions when it comes to cannabis.

    The amendments included allowing the District of Columbia to implement adult-use sales program, originally passed by voters in 2014, and protections for banks to provide services to marijuana businesses.

    In a release sent out earlier today containing the testimony by Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), the Congresswoman stated:

    My first amendment, cosponsored by Representatives Dana Rohrabacher, Barbara Lee and Earl Blumenauer, strikes the rider that prohibits D.C. from spending its local funds to commercialize recreational marijuana.  Nine states have legalized recreational marijuana, and eight of those states have approved commercialization.

    In February 2015, D.C. legalized the possession of marijuana for recreational use, after two independent studies found dramatic racial disparities in marijuana arrests in D.C.  A rider to block recreational use failed due to faulty drafting, and possession of up to two ounces of marijuana for recreational use is legal in D.C., but Congress has prohibited D.C. from spending its local funds to tax and regulate recreational marijuana.  This rider has unintentionally benefited violent drug gangs.  For that reason, some refer to it as the “Drug Dealer Protection Act.”  As one marijuana dealer told the Washington Post, the rider is “a license for me to print money.”  Regulating marijuana like alcohol would allow D.C., instead of drug dealers, to control production, distribution, sales and revenues.

     

    The banking amendment was introduced by Rep Denny Heck (D-WA), who Marijuana Moment first reported as testifying:

    “Our federal laws are outdated. The people in this country want the law to treat marijuana as we do alcohol. These large sums of cash make dispensaries an obvious target for robberies.”

     

    Earlier in the year, the Senate included existing protections for medical marijuana programs from the Department of Justice for the FY19 Appropriations Bill to restrict federal funds from being used for enforcement actions. The House Appropriations Committee passed identical language offered by Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH) meaning that maintaining these protections will be considered in the annual conference committee and likely stay in effect.

    This was not the first time the Republican Congressman Pete Sessions, who is known to steer the Rules Committee with an iron fist, blocked marijuana-related amendments.

    He is currently being challenged by attorney, former NFL player, and former Special Assistant in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of General Counsel Colin Allred. You can find out more about Allred’s campaign here.

    Send a message to your federally elected officials in support of comprehensive reform legislation in our Action Center: http://norml.org/act

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