A key House committee is calling on federal officials to take steps to develop hemp-based plastic alternatives, create a device to detect marijuana-impaired driving and combat illegal cannabis grows on public lands.
The provisions are contained in reports attached to annual spending legislation that advanced through the House Appropriations Committee this week.
The report for the Fiscal Year 2024 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies appropriations bill discusses the “potential need for dependable bio-based and U.S.-grown plastic alternatives.”
It directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to “provide a briefing on efforts to explore alternatives, such as United States-based hemp, and how such alternatives may be used as a cost-efficient alternative in government-produced or funded materials” within 180 days of the bill’s enactment.
Another section of the report says that the committee is “aware that trespassers illegally grow marijuana on public lands in California.”
“These unlawful activities harmfully impact the public, water, soil, and wildlife,” it says. “The Committee supports Forest Service efforts to develop tools to detect and eradicate grow sites. The Committee directs the Forest Service and the [Bureau of Land Management] to continue to cooperate with State, local, and Tribal governments on survey, reclamation, and prevention efforts to the maximum extent possible.”
The report for the separate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) bill, meanwhile, also features a marijuana mention focused on impaired driving.
It says that the committee “continues to support the development of an objective standard to measure marijuana impairment and a related field sobriety test to ensure highway safety.”
The Department of Transportation is directed to “provide an updated briefing to the Committee no later than 60 days after the date of enactment of this Act regarding interim progress in advance of publication of the report.”
Bipartisan lawmakers are also seeking to include drug policy amendments as part of spending legislation covering other federal agencies.
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Two identical amendments from Rep. Robert Garcia (D-CA) that have been offered as part of different appropriations bills would prevent the use of funds to drug test most applicants for cannabis at the agencies covered by the legislation.
There’s also an amendment to a spending bill from Reps. Jack Bergman (R-MI) and Lou Correa (D-CA) that’s meant to encourage the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to carry out “large-scale studies” into drugs like psilocybin and MDMA that have been designated as “breakthrough therapies” by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Earlier this month, Garcia had also filed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would have prevented security clearance denials for federal workers over prior cannabis use. But that proposal, in addition to more than a dozen other drug policy reform amendments filed by bipartisan lawmakers, were ultimately blocked by the GOP-controlled House Rules Committee, which will also decide whether these new amendments can receive floor votes.
Other amendments on medical cannabis recommendations for military veterans were also recently filed by bipartisan lawmakers on the VA spending bill. They will need to be made in order by the House Rules Committee if they’re to receive floor consideration. Given what happened with the NDAA drug policy amendments this month, it’s not clear if leadership will allow that.
Meanwhile, Democratic senators are seeking to pass a series of marijuana reform amendments through its version of the NDAA.
One of the proposals, led by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), would allow veterans to use medical cannabis in states and territories where its legal, mirroring a standalone bill that the senator introduced in April.
It would additionally protect doctors who discuss and fill out paperwork to recommend medical marijuana for veterans. And it would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to support clinical trials investigating the therapeutic effects of cannabis in the treatment of conditions such as pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that commonly afflict veterans.
It’s currently unclear if Senate Democrats and Republicans will reach an agreement on inserting any of the amendments in the final bill—or if the GOP-controlled House would be willing to go along with them if they are ultimately attached on the Senate side.
Separately, the Senate Appropriations Committee recently approved an amendment to allow VA doctors to issue medical cannabis recommendations and released a report for the relevant spending bill that calls on the department to facilitate medical marijuana access for veterans and explore the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.
House and Senate appropriators have also approved large-scale annual spending bills that once again include language to protect state medical cannabis programs, as well as a controversial rider to block Washington, D.C. from implementing a system of regulated marijuana sales.