GOP House and Senate lawmakers well-known for opposing marijuana reform have introduced a concurrent resolution calling on federal agencies to study the potential risks of high potency THC products.
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) and Sen. Pete Ricketts (R-NE) filed the legislation, which they promoted alongside the leading prohibitionist group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) at a press conference on Thursday.
The whereas section of the measure says that “high-potency marijuana has become increasingly prevalent across the United States,” which it claims carries “greater health risks,” particularly for young people.
It goes on to say that “education and awareness programs are essential to inform the public about the potential risks associated with the use of high-potency marijuana,” and “bipartisan effort is necessary to develop evidence-based policies to address” the issue.
To that end, the resolution would express the sense of Congress that agencies including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) should “conduct and support research on the health effects of high-potency marijuana and its impact on vulnerable populations such as youth.”
The dangers of using high-potency THC products often goes unnoticed.
— Pete Sessions (@PeteSessions) February 1, 2024
Further, it proposes federal, state and local education programs to raise awareness about the “potential risks” of high-THC cannabis products. And governments at all levels should also “collaborate with public health organizations, medical professionals, and community stakeholders to develop evidence-based policies that address the public health and safety concerns.”
The sponsors are referring to the measure as “Randy’s Resolution”—named after Randy Bacchus, a 21-year-old who took his own life in an act his parents have attributed to his cannabis use that they say led to a psychotic episode.
While the resolution says there should be bipartisan work to tackle the issue, so far the measure’s original sponsors are all well-established prohibitionists in Congress with controversial marijuana policy records.
Sessions, for example, has earned a reputation as one of the most aggressive opponents of even modest cannabis reform, blocking virtually all marijuana measures from receiving floor consideration when he served as chairman of the House Rules Committee until losing reelection in 2018. He returned to the House after winning election in a different district in 2020.
More recently, the congressman led a letter last September urging DEA to “reject” the top federal health agency’s recommendation to reschedule marijuana and instead keep it in the most restrictive category under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) is the only other member currently listed as an original sponsor on the House side, and he’s similarly fought against cannabis policy reform throughout his tenure. For instance, the congressman is behind a longstanding appropriations rider that’s blocked Washington, D.C. from using its local tax dollars to implement a system of regulated cannabis sales, despite voters approving legalization at the local ballot in 2014.
On the Senate side, Ricketts is leading the concurrent resolution on THC potency research. As Nebraska’s governor and now as a senator, he has consistently opposed cannabis reform efforts at the state and congressional levels, including proposals to legalize medical cannabis in Nebraska, streamline the state pardon process and allow banks to work with state-licensed marijuana businesses.
Joined @PeteSessions to introduce Randy’s Resolution urging action at the local, state & federal level to combat dangerous high-potency marijuana products.
We named it after Randy Bacchus, who committed suicide after suffering a psychotic break brought on by high-potency pot. pic.twitter.com/6I1XTOeKlO
— Senator Pete Ricketts (@SenatorRicketts) February 1, 2024
In 2021, as Ricketts advocated against a medical cannabis proposal in his home state, he asserted that marijuana is a “dangerous drug that will impact our kids,” and he took that claim a step further by asserting that if states enact legalization, “you’re gonna kill your kids—that’s what the data shows from around the country.”
In the context of the sponsors’ cannabis backgrounds, the new resolution itself is relatively modest. Supporters of marijuana legalization generally agree with the idea of promoting marijuana research, education and youth prevention—even if they may disagree with some of the rhetoric and data points used in the measure.
What’s more, the resolution would simply express the sense of Congress that high potency THC products warrant further investigation, without any actionable mandates for agencies or governments to proceed accordingly.
In any case, SAM has made much of the legislation in the lead-up to Thursday’s unveiling, repeatedly characterizing it as a “big” win as they promote their anti-cannabis messaging on Capitol Hill as part of SAM’s 2024 summit.
The resolution introduction also comes as advocates eagerly await a final verdict from DEA on possible marijuana scheduling reform. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has advised DEA to move cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III under the CSA, but the law enforcement agency will make the final call upon completion of its ongoing review.
On Monday, 12 Democratic senators called on DEA to fully legalize cannabis, rather than simply reschedule it, and also answer questions about the agency’s active review.
Read the text of the THC potency resolution below:
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.