If it wasn’t apparent already, passing marijuana reform legislation will be a priority for House Democrats in the 116th Congress. The latest sign is a series of committee reports outlining cannabis-related issues various panels plan to tackle.
The reports, compiled by the House Oversight and Reform Committee, are meant to “form a coherent blueprint for Congress to address issues of concern to working families across the country.” To that end, panels dedicated to financial services, health and justice reported on their plans to advance various legislation concerning marijuana.
The Financial Services Committee has already started to accomplish one of its marijuana-related legislative priorities. The committee said it “will examine the difficulties, including public safety concerns, cannabis-related businesses experience as a result of being unable to access basic banking service” and also “review proposal that alleviate legal and compliance risks for financial institutions related to providing such services to cannabis-related businesses in states where cannabis use, sale, or distribution is authorized.”
Bipartisan legislation to shield banks that service marijuana businesses cleared that panel last month, and is currently awaiting placement on the calendar for a full floor vote. That bill has 166 cosponsors—more than a third of the chamber’s membership.
A House Veterans Affairs subcommittee focused on health submitted a report noting that it will be “supporting research into the areas most likely to enhance the quality and delivery of healthcare to veterans, such as the effects of hazardous exposures on veterans and their families and efficacy of medicinal cannabis to treat medical conditions specific and non-specific to the veteran population.”
Several bills have been introduced during this session that would specifically address that issue. Legislation that would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct clinical trials on the therapeutic potential of cannabis for veterans has garnered bipartisan support.
Finally, a Judiciary subcommittee offered a brief description of its plans with regard to cannabis legislation. The panel “will review the laws related to the possession of marijuana and the impact of those laws on our communities.”
There are various bipartisan efforts to broadly change federal cannabis laws, but it’s not clear if the committee had a specific bill in mind based on the report excerpt. Earlier this year, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said that his panel would likely vote on cannabis legislation “fairly soon.”
The committee reports roughly reflect a plan proposed by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who last year released a congressional “blueprint” to federal marijuana legalization that involved assigning incremental pieces of cannabis legislation to relevant committees in the run-up to ending prohibition.
Separately, House Democrats held a three-day policy retreat last week that involved a first-of-its-kind panel on the body’s plans for marijuana reform. The panel, which was moderated by Blumenauer and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), emphasized the importance of including social equity provision in cannabis bills.
Some lawmakers also participated in trivia game during the retreat that featured questions about types of marijuana and smoking devices.