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House Committee Rejects GOP-Led Amendment To Ask Biden To Prepare For Federal Marijuana Legalization By Studying States



A Republican-controlled House committee has rejected a GOP member’s attempt to simply ask the White House to work with federal agencies to study state marijuana regulatory models and develop a national framework to prepare for the possibility that cannabis is federally legalized.

At a House Appropriations Committee hearing on Thursday, Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH) introduced an amendment to a spending bill report that would have made the request for the administrative review. But after he and two other Republican lawmakers asked for the committee’s support, it was shot down in a voice vote. And it didn’t muster enough support in the room to force a roll call vote.

The defeat comes on the same day that the committee approved an underlying spending bill that maintains a longstanding rider blocking Washington, D.C. from using its local tax dollars to implement a system of regulated cannabis sales.

The congressman’s defeated amendment to the appropriations report, meanwhile, would have called on the White House to work with the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau and other relevant agencies to “coordinate an assessment of the adequacy of these states’ cannabis regulatory frameworks, including commonalities and novel approaches to enforcement and oversight.”

Joyce’s amendment is similar to a standalone bill that he filed in April, alongside House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). That legislation—the Preparing Regulators Effectively for a Post-Prohibition Adult-Use Regulated Environment Act (PREPARE) Act—would further require the attorney general to create a commission comprised of representatives from numerous agencies to get the federal government ready for eventual legalization.

“We as lawmakers will be better equipped to consider policies that align tax frameworks and improve public health and safety,” the congressman said at Thursday’s markup. “Each state has done this independently. Some states have had better results than others.”

“We should have one similar regulatory framework that we need to develop, and that’s what I’m asking is to at least gather the information from these other states so we have the ability to look at it should cannabis ever become legal nationwide,” he added.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), who chairs the separate Rules Committee, voiced support for the congressman’s amendment, saying that the widely criticized rollout of Oklahoma’s medical cannabis program underscores the need to better understand what types of regulatory models work.

“My friend’s amendment, I think, is really important—having adequate information and adequate understanding of what the regulatory issues are,” Cole said. “This is a very thoughtful, helpful kind of way because this is here whether we like it or not. And understanding the appropriate way to regulate it and how to deal with it and educate the public about it is a very valuable contribution.”

Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) also spoke to the amendment, saying that while he considered it “a little skinny” in detail, it also represents “a step in the right direction.” But the measure then failed on a voice vote and did not have enough support to force a roll call.

Here’s the full text of what the amendment would have done: 

“The Committee notes that over 20 states and territories now permit the use of adult use cannabis, while over 35 states and territories permit the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. The Committee urges the Executive Office of the President, in consultation with the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, and other agencies which may have relevant regulatory expertise to coordinate an assessment of the adequacy of these states’ cannabis regulatory frameworks, including commonalities and novel approaches to enforcement and oversight.”

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The fact that the modest proposal to simply suggest to the White House that it start planning for the possibility of legalization was rejected on Thursday is one the latest displays of the House Republican majority’s general opposition to cannabis reform, raising further questions about the prospects of other incremental marijuana bills like the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which is already facing a tight deadline for Senate action in the summer session as Democrats and Republicans debate one section on banking regulations that’s proved contentious.

Also, House Republican leadership in the Rules Committee blocked numerous cannabis and psychedelics amendments from floor consideration as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) early Thursday morning. That included several led by GOP members alone and others that were bipartisan.

Thursday’s vote against the Joyce amendment is also reminiscent of a GOP-led defeat of an attempt by Senate Democrats to send a bipartisan bill on studying medical cannabis for military veterans to the floor in April.

While the various measures have been bipartisan to the extent that they enjoy cosponsorships and some votes from members on both sides of the aisle, the first half of the year have left an impression that simply being bipartisan in nature isn’t necessarily enough to get convince the Republican caucus to actually enact them.

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Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.

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