u.s. house

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U.S.: House Republicans Strip Veterans Of Equal Access To Marijuana In Dead Of Night

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"This isn't right for our veterans, or the American people."
~ Congressman Earl Blumenauer and Senator Jeff Merkley

On Wednesday, in the dead of night, as House Democrats held a sit-in for gun safety, House Republicans stripped language that would make it easier for qualified veterans to access state-legal medical marijuana from legislation to fund the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

With no transparency and little opportunity for Members to review, the House passed the legislation shortly after 3 a.m. local time Thursday. The Senate will vote on the legislation next.

Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) released the following statement:

“Our language ensuring fair treatment for our veterans had broad, bipartisan support and passed both Chambers—it’s outrageous that it was removed. To add insult to injury, the legislation was released in the middle of the night, not even giving Members of the House an opportunity to review the language before voting on it. This isn’t right for our veterans, or the American people. We will keep fighting to make sure our wounded warriors have equal treatment and the ability to consult with their VA medical providers about medical marijuana as a treatment option.”

Arizona: Congressman Ruben Gallego Endorses Initiative To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol

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Congressman Ruben Gallego on Monday announced that he is endorsing an initiative poised for the November ballot that would end marijuana prohibition in Arizona and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.

“Forcing sales of this plant into the underground market has resulted in billions of dollars flowing into the hands of drug cartels and other criminals,” Rep. Gallego said. "We will be far better off if we shift the production and sale of marijuana to taxpaying Arizona businesses that are subject to strict regulations. It will also allow the state to direct law enforcement resources toward reducing violence and other more serious crimes.

“I am proud to support this initiative, as it represents a far more sensible approach to marijuana for our state,” Gallego said. “It will make Arizona communities safer, while also generating some much-needed tax revenue for our schools.”

Gallego, a Democrat who represents Arizona’s 7th Congressional district, which includes central and south Phoenix as well as western Maricopa County communities, announced his endorsement at a news conference on the House Lawn of the Arizona State Capitol. He was joined by leaders of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which is supporting the initiative.

U.S.: House, Senate Bills Aim To Remove Barriers To Marijuana Research

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Bipartisan, Bicameral Medical Marijuana Research Legislation Introduced in House and Senate

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

There's a major development in federal cannabis legislation this week. Congressmen Andy Harris, M.D. (R-MD), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), H. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), and Sam Farr (D-CA) will be introducing the Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2016. This bill heeds the calls of the medical research community to address the burdensome processes that currently impede legitimate medical research on marijuana.

The bill is a bipartisan and bicameral solution that removes barriers inhibiting medical marijuana research. Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) are introducing a similar bill in the Senate.

“As a physician who has conducted NIH sponsored research, I can’t stress enough how critical this legislation is to the scientific community," said Dr. Harris. "Our drug policy was never intended to act as an impediment to conducting legitimate medical research.

U.S.: Veterans Group Weed For Warriors Praises House Passage of VA Marijuana Measure

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Decorated disabled Iraq War veteran Brandon Wyatt on Thursday applauded Congress for passing a measure today that will help veterans in states where medical marijuana is legal get the medicine they need to fight their battle with post traumatic stress disorder and other ailments.

“This is a significant step forward in our cause,” said Wyatt, a lawyer and activist, who staged a groundbreaking free cannabis giveaway last month outside the Veterans Administration clinic in Washington, D.C., for patients suffering from PTSD. “We appreciate the support and efforts of all involved.

"Nevertheless, the job is not finished, because this legislation does not allow all veterans to be provided with the quality healthcare they need in order to be free of the fear of having to self-medicate," Wyatt said. "Easier access doesn’t equate to equal access.”

The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, (D-Oregon), only applies to states where cannabis is legal; it doesn't allow for the distribution or use of cannabis at VA clinics or any federal facilities; and it doesn't allow for the VA to cover the costs.

U.S.: House Removes Restrictions Preventing Veterans Access To Medical Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed an amendment to the FY 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill led by Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon to make it easier for qualified veterans to access state-legal medical marijuana.

The amendment had bipartisan support and was co-sponsored by Representatives Joe Heck (R-NV), Sam Farr (D-CA), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Tom Reed (R-NY), Dina Titus (D-NV), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), and Jared Polis (D-CO). It passed by 233-189.

“One of the greatest tragedies of our time is our failure to adequately deal with the needs of our veterans returning home with wounds both visible and unseen," Representative Blumenauer said. "Giving them access to medical marijuana as an alternative treatment option to deal with chronic pain, PTSD, and other conditions is critical at a time when our veterans are dying with a suicide rate 50 percent higher than civilians and opiate overdoses at nearly double the national average.

California: Adult Use of Marijuana Act Endorsed by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher

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Longtime GOP congressman U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) on Tuesday announced his support for the statewide ballot measure known as the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA).

He is the second California Congressman to endorse the measure in as many weeks. U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) announced his support last Monday.

"Rohrabacher is a 13-term Congressman who is a powerful voice for libertarian values," the AUMA campaign announced in a prepared statement. He is the co-author of the bipartisan Rohrabacher-Farr amendment which has been passed as part of the Federal Budget and prevents the federal government from prosecuting medical marijuana patients or distributors who are in compliance with the laws of their state.

“As a Republican who believes in individual freedom, limited government and states' rights, I believe that it's time for California to lead the nation and create a safe, legal system for the responsible adult use of marijuana,” said Rohrabacher.

“I endorse the Adult Use of Marijuana Act for the November 2016 ballot,” the Congressman continued. “It is a necessary reform which will end the failed system of marijuana prohibition in our state, provide California law enforcement the resources it needs to redouble its focus on serious crimes while providing a policy blueprint for other states to follow.”

Global: Blumenauer Says UN Drug Policy Should Be More Just and Compassionate

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U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (Oregon) this week joined leaders from around the world in New York at the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem. Rep. Blumenauer attended the opening day’s events as a Congressional observer.

“There is no better time than now for world leaders to gather to reevaluate international drug policy," Blumenauer said. "The War on Drugs has failed. Instead of escalating the horrific violence of this war, we need a more just and compassionate approach that focuses on public health and harm reduction, rather than punishing drug users.

“I was encouraged to hear a number of countries leading the charge for a different approach, in particular from those countries that have changed or are considering changing their policies surrounding the treatment of marijuana," Blumenauer said. "It was also very promising to hear Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, representing a nation that has experienced horrific violence as a result of the War on Drugs, announce his support for legalizing medical marijuana in Mexico and a call to change a paradigm of prohibitionism that has not yielded results.

U.S.: Members of Congress Tell VA To Allow Veterans Medical Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A broad group of legislators from both parties on Wednesday sent a letter to the Veterans’ Administration (VA) demanding a change in policy to allow veterans to access medical marijuana. Currently, veterans are prevented from having full conversations about medical marijuana with VA doctors, and the same VA physicians are prohibited from recommending medical marijuana, even in states where medical marijuana is legal.

“Vets have served their country, and the least we can do is give them the care they require,” said Michael Collins, deputy director of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “It is shameful that the VA prevents veterans from accessing a treatment for pain relief and PTSD.”

“Current VA policy is doing a disservice to veterans by preventing their doctors from exploring all possible treatment options," said Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "We trust VA physicians to prescribe painkillers and other prescription drugs that are far more addictive and infinitely more lethal. Why can’t we trust them to recommend medical marijuana to the patients who they believe could benefit from it?

U.S.: House Leaders Announce Sentencing Reform Deal

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Agreement Comes on Heels of Historic Senate Deal

High Hopes that Congress will soon Pass Criminal Justice Reform

House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) on Thursday announced a deal on sentencing reform with his counterpart Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), and Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX). The bill -- The Sentencing Reform Act -- takes a similar approach to the Senate’s Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, announced last week, although this bill contains new problematic provisions.

“This is not the legislation we would have drafted, but we are encouraged that we now have bills in the House and Senate that tackle similar issues and that move the ball down the field for sentencing reform,” said Michael Collins, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “We are more optimistic than ever that a bill will land on the President’s desk.”

The Senate deal, spearheaded by Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), includes reductions in mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, an expansion of the federal "safety valve” (which allows judges to use their discretion to sentence people below statutory mandatory minimums), and expansion of reentry programming and early release, among other things.

U.S.: Senate Committee Allows Marijuana Legalization To Move Forward In Nation's Capital

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A key Senate committee on Thursday passed a bill allowing the nation’s capital to establish regulated marijuana stores and let banks provide financial services to state-legalized marijuana dispensaries.

These are just two of several marijuana reforms advancing in Congress, according to the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). Meanwhile, sentencing reform is gaining steam, and the U.S. is shifting towards treating drug use as a health issue instead of a criminal justice issue.

“The stage has been set to end the federal government’s failed war on marijuana,” said Michael Collins, policy manager at DPA’s Office of National Affairs. “A bipartisan consensus has emerged in favor of reform.”

Last November nearly 72 percent of D.C. voters approved a ballot measure making it legal to possess and grow marijuana for personal use. The campaign to pass Initiative 71 was driven by public demands to end racially-biased enforcement of marijuana laws and was seen as the first step at taking marijuana out of the illicit market.

A broad base of community support from multiple civil rights organizations, faith leaders and community advocacy groups supported Initiative 71, viewing it as an opportunity to restore the communities most harmed by the war on drugs.

U.S.: Bipartisan Medical Efficacy of Marijuana Amendment Introduced In House

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Amendment to 21st Century Cures Bill Would Encourage Marijuana Research

Republican Congressmen H. Morgan Griffith (VA-09) and Andy Harris, M.D., (MD-01), and Democratic Congressmen Sam Farr (CA-20) and Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) on Wednesday introduced the “Credible Research on Medical Efficacy of Marijuana Amendment” to the 21st Century Cures Act, or H.R. 6, which is currently scheduled to be considered on the House floor this week.

The amendment focuses on removing barriers that inhibit research on marijuana. This amendment encourages the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to work with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to initiate and collaborate on research about the medical risks and benefits of marijuana.

This does not change marijuana from a Schedule I drug, but does create a new subclassification within Schedule I – “Schedule 1R” for marijuana that would make research easier to conduct.

“There has been little research into potential therapeutic benefits and risks of medical marijuana use," said Congressman Griffith. "In many cases, research into specific relief it provides, how it can best be used, etc. has been obstructed by federal obstacles.

"This amendment is a responsible approach to increasing research and pursuing the answers to questions being asked by so many patients, doctors, researchers, and policy makers about medicinal marijuana,” said Griffith said.

U.S.: House Narrowly Votes Against Protecting State Recreational Marijuana Laws

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The House approved a similar amendment that applies only to state laws allowing the cultivation and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday narrowly defeated a measure 206-222 on Wednesday that was intended to prevent the federal government from interfering with state laws legalizing marijuana for all purposes, including adult recreational use.

The amendment, offered by Reps. Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Jared Polis (D-CO) to the House version of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, would have prohibited the Justice Department, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, from using funds to interfere in the implementation of state laws that allow the cultivation, distribution, and use of marijuana.

Earlier, the House approved a similar amendment that applies only to state medical marijuana laws, which was offered by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA). It has been offered in the House eight times since 2003, and the first time it passed was last year by a vote of 219-189. It was codified in the so-called “CRomnibus” funding bill in December, and it is expected to be included in the final spending law again this year.

U.S.: House Votes To Protect State Medical Marijuana Laws From Federal Interference

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The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a measure 242-186 that is intended to prevent the federal government from interfering in state medical marijuana laws.

The amendment, offered by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA) to the House version of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, prohibits the Justice Department, including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), from using funds to interfere in the implementation of laws that allow the cultivation, distribution, and use of marijuana for medical purposes.

The amendment has been offered in the House eight times since 2003, and it passed for the first time last year by a vote of 219-189. It was codified in the so-called “CRomnibus” funding bill in December, and it is expected to be included in the final spending law again this year.

The House is now expected to consider a broader measure that would not be limited to medical marijuana. The amendment, offered by Reps. Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Jared Polis (D-CO), would prohibit the Justice Department from using funds to interfere in the implementation of state laws regulating marijuana for adult use, in addition to medical purposes.

U.S.: Congress Voting On Amendments To Rein In Troubled DEA

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Amendments Would Prohibit DEA from Undermining State Marijuana Laws; Shut Down DEA’s Controversial Bulk Collection Surveillance Programs; Cut Agency’s Budget

Amendments Come in Wake of Recent Forced Resignation of Agency’s Head, Michele Leonhart

As the U.S. House of Representatives considers the Fiscal Year 2016 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill today and tomorrow, legislators could vote on at least seven amendments designed to reduce the power of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and cut its budget.

The DEA has existed for more than 40 years, but little attention has been given to the role the agency has played in fueling mass incarceration, racial disparities and other problems exacerbated by the Drug War. Congress has rarely scrutinized the agency, its actions or its budget, instead deferring to DEA administrators on how best to deal with drug-related issues.

That all has changed recently after a series of scandals that sparked several hearings in the House and Senate and forced the resignation of the DEA’s beleaguered head, Administrator Michele Leonhart.

“There’s unprecedented support on both sides of the aisle for ending the federal war on marijuana and letting states set their own drug policies based on science, compassion, health, and human rights,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “The more the DEA blocks sensible reforms the more they will see their agency’s power and budget come under deeper scrutiny.”

U.S.: Senate Panel OKs Medical Marijuana For Veterans

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday voted 18-12 to approve an amendment to increase military veterans' access to medical marijuana.

The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) to the must-pass Senate version of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, if signed into law, would prevent the Department of Veterans Affairs from spending money to enforce a prohibition on V.A. doctors filling out medical marijuana recommendation forms in states where the drug is legal.

“This is a historic moment," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). "Passage of the amendment was the right thing to do for our veterans.

"We should not be preventing access to medicine that can help our wounded warriors deal with serious conditions, such as post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries,” Blumenauer said. “Today’s passage coupled with the narrow defeat of my amendment to the MilCon-VA appropriations bill in the House signals there is real movement and bipartisan support in reforming outdated federal marijuana policies. We are now in a good position to be able to advocate for inclusion of this policy in a final appropriations bill.”

U.S.: Patients Applaud Congressional Restriction On Federal Medical Marijuana Enforcement

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Historic measure in Omnibus Budget Bill is similar to House amendment passed earlier this year aimed at ending DOJ/DEA interference

The House and Senate Appropriations leadership has hammered out a budget bill that includes an historic amendment to curb federal Department of Justice (DOJ) enforcement in medical marijuana states. The measure, which was originally passed by the House in May with an unprecedented 219-189 vote, aims to prohibit the DOJ from spending taxpayer money to undermine state medical marijuana laws.

"This is great news for medical marijuana patients all across the country," said Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), one of the co-authors of the House measure. "This amendment protects patients while the federal government catches up with the views of the American people.

"Patients will have access to the care legal in their state without fear of federal prosecution," Rep. Farr said. "And our federal dollars will be spent more wisely on fighting actual crimes and not wasted going after patients."

"We applaud this Congress for doing the right thing by protecting the rights of patients, and ending a years-long attack on the medical marijuana community," said Mike Liszewski, government affairs director with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a medical marijuana advocacy organization that has been championing the measure for years. "By approving this measure, Congress is siding with the vast majority of Americans who are calling for a change in how we enforce our federal marijuana laws."

U.S.: House Committee Votes To Block Marijuana Decriminalization In Washington DC

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Advocates prepare for vote to remove Republican amendment on House floor

The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday passed a Republican-sponsored amendment to the 2015 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill intended to prevent the District of Columbia from implementing its recently passed law decriminalizing the possession of marijuana. It also has the potential to end the District’s medical marijuana program.

The amendment, offered by GOP Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), passed by a vote of 28-21. It prohibits D.C. from spending federal funds or even its locally raised funds to carry out any law, rule or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce criminal penalties for marijuana.

The District of Columbia City Council passed a law in March replacing its criminal penalties for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana with a nominal $25 fine. It is scheduled to take effect July 17.

The law was largely a response to an ACLU report showing blacks in the District of Columbia are roughly eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites, despite similar use rates. In 2010, 91 percent of all marijuana arrests in D.C. were of African Americans.

The District’s medical marijuana law is the product of a 1998 initiative. It was not implemented until 2010 due to a provision in federal law, similar to the amendment offered by Rep. Harris, which was not repealed until 2009.

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