A Democratic congressman says that he believes there could be “very bipartisan support” for recently filed marijuana-related amendments to a defense bill, including his proposal to prevent the denial of security clearances for federal jobs based solely on prior cannabis use.
In an interview with MSNBC on Sunday, Rep. Robert Garcia (D-CA) was asked about his amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is one of multiple drug policy measures that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle submitted and are up for consideration by the House Rules Committee this week.
The congressman said that the status quo is “shameful” and dramatically reduces the pool of eligible candidates for federal positions based on an activity that has been legalized in nearly half of the states in the country, including his home state of California.
“There are 155 million Americans that live in these states that could have issues with security clearance, could have issues with serving in the military, could have issues working in places like the Justice Department or any of our agencies because of cannabis use that is actually legal in their state,” he said. “It’s time that we right this wrong—this damage that we have caused to so many young people in this country.”
“These are talented people. We need talented folks,” Garcia said. “Our state produces incredible folks, and these folks deserve a chance to serve in the federal government and pass the security clearances for these critical jobs.”
The congressman was also asked about a separate NDAA amendment from Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) that would prohibit drug testing for marijuana as a requirement for military enlistment.
He said that it shows that “there is a possibility of bipartisanship” around cannabis issues, even in a divided Congress with Republicans in control of the House.
Americans who use cannabis in the 21 states where it is legal are currently disadvantaged from receiving federal security clearances.
That’s why I’m bringing forward an amendment to align federal cannabis requirements with state laws. pic.twitter.com/I6dCFh8Kvh
— Congressman Robert Garcia (@RepRobertGarcia) July 9, 2023
“I know that Congressman Gaetz’s bill specifically deals with the military and ours is broader along with all other federal agencies, and so I think there can be very bipartisan support,” he said. “And I think that, at the end of the day, this is an issue that most Americans believe needs to get fixed.”
“I think it’s it’s shameful that we have folks that want to be part of the military—that we have folks in all the states where marijuana and cannabis use is legal—that can’t get past security clearances,” Garcia said. “We have an opportunity this upcoming week to fix these wrongs, and I’m hopeful that folks on both sides of the aisle will vote for these amendments.”
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In order to reach the floor, the various drug policy amendments will need to be made in order by the House Rules Committee, which is scheduled to take up the proposals on Tuesday. Last Congress, the House did include certain cannabis and psychedelics amendments as part of the NDAA, but they were omitted from the final deal following bicameral negotiations with the Senate.
However, lawmakers did secure report language instructing the secretary of defense to conduct a study looking at the “feasibility and advisability of conducting a study on the use of certain pharmacologic or potential plant-based therapies as alternatives to prescription opioids for the treatment of PTSD, TBI, or chronic pain.”
Two drug policy amendments have already been attached to the House version of the NDAA this session, with the House Armed Services Committee recently accepting Republican-led measures to create a medical marijuana “pilot program” and require a study into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics for active duty military members under the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).
Separately, the Senate Appropriations Committee recently released a report for a spending bill that calls on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to facilitate medical marijuana access for veterans and explore the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.
Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.