OG Article: here
View our Fair Use Policy: here
By Kyle Jaeger
None of the bipartisan marijuana or psychedelics amendments that bipartisan lawmakers proposed as part of a large-scale defense bill will advance to the floor following a key House committee action.
More than a dozen drug policy amendments were offered by members to potentially be attached to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). But Republican leadership in the House Rules Committee declined to make any of them in order for floor votes, despite the testimony of certain sponsors who implored the panel to accept them.
The committee released a second rule and list of cleared amendments for NDAA early Thursday morning. It had advanced an initial package of generally non-controversial proposals on Tuesday following controversy over other unrelated amendments on issues like gender-affirming care and Ukraine support, and advocates hoped they’d return to the bill and approve at least some of the reform measures, but that didn’t materialize.
The proposed amendments touched on issues like eliminating cannabis drug testing for people trying to enlist in the military, protecting federal workers from losing security clearances for marijuana, letting Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) doctors issue medical cannabis recommendations, allowing servicemembers to use CBD or other hemp-derived products and investigating the therapeutic potential of certain psychedelics.
Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), the Democratic co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus who sponsored the amendment on medical cannabis recommendations for veterans living in legal states, released a joint statement on Thursday reacting to the GOP blockage.
“From ensuring our veterans have equal access to state-legal medical marijuana programs to preventing past cannabis use from disqualifying applicants to enlist in the military, our amendments gave the opportunity for Congress to come together across party lines and make progress for communities impacted by the failed war on drugs,” the lawmakers said.
“At a time when we are facing serious recruitment and retention challenges, it is a travesty that the Republican majority refuses to address the military’s archaic drug policies, which drive qualified people out of the armed services or prevent them from enlisting in the first place,” they said. “Likewise, we cannot begin to deal with health care for our servicemembers and veterans without allowing equal access to medical marijuana that Americans in most states now can utilize. Our armed services, veterans, and the American people deserve better.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who sponsored the amendment on ending cannabis testing for military recruits, told Marijuana Moment on Thursday that he’s “disappointed that these amendments have not been approved for a vote.”
“A consequence of living in the gerontocracy of Congress is a boomerfied view of drug policy,” the congressman said.
While the amendments didn’t make it in, two marijuana and psychedelics measures were previously attached to the base text of the NDAA in the House Armed Services Committee.
Under the psychedelics measure from Rep. Morgan Luttrell (R-TX) that is part of the advancing bill, the defense secretary would be required to carry out a clinical study into the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics for active duty service members with PTSD, traumatic brain injury or chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
The clinical studies would need to involve psilocybin, MDMA, ibogaine or DMT. The secretary would need to provide lawmakers with a report within one year of the enactment of the legislation with information about trial findings. A few of the proposed revisions to NDAA that were rejected in the Rules Committee sought to further amend this language.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), who is sponsoring similar standalone legislation, said on Tuesday that he wanted the Rules Committee to adopt an amendment to Luttrell’s amendment because, he said, House Armed Services Committee staff had stripped language from his measure without authorization that provided actual funding for the research and also changed it to require clinical studies, rather than clinical trials. The panel declined to follow suit, however, leaving the psychedelics amendment more hollow.
Meanwhile, a cannabis amendment that had been attached to the bill in the earlier committee calls for a defense department medical cannabis pilot program that would examine the health impacts of marijuana use by veterans and service members who are VA beneficiaries. To be eligible for the program, the VA participant would need to have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression or anxiety, or have been prescribed pain management.
Here are all of the marijuana and psychedelics amendments that the committee blocked from advancing:
Rep. Robert Garcia (D-CA): Prohibit the denial of security clearances for defense department workers based solely on their use of marijuana if the activity is legal at the state level.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL): Prohibit drug testing for marijuana as a requirement for military enlistment.
Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX): Prevent the Department of Defense (DOD) from punishing military servicemembers from using CBD or other hemp-derived products.
Reps. Brian Mast (R-FL), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Dave Joyce (R-OH) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR): Allow VA doctors to issue medical cannabis recommendations to veterans living in states where marijuana has been legalized for therapeutic purposes.
Reps. Dave Joyce, (R-OH), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Jason Crow (D-CO): Require the defense secretary to develop a plan to provide reenlistment waivers to service members who test positive for THC.
Reps. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dina Titus (D-NV), Jared Moskowitz (D-FL), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Rick Larsen (D-WA): Expedite the waiver process for military recruits and applicants who admit to prior cannabis use by allowing the lowest-level defense employees to issue such waivers. A second amendment with a similar aim was also filed by the same sponsors.
Reps. Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Nancy Mace (R-SC), Bill Johnson (R-OH), Jasmine Crockett (D-TX) and Blumenauer: Empower the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to transfer drugs like psilocybin and MDMA that have received “breakthrough therapy” designations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from Schedule I to Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
Reps. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) and Morgan Luttrell (R-TX): Expand the bill’s existing psychedelics study provisions to create a DOD grant program to fund research that investigate the therapeutic utility of the substances for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA): Following the DOD-led clinical trial into the therapeutic efficacy of psychedelics that’s already in the bill, the agency would need to include in its report a recommendation on next steps for further exploring the therapeutic option.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI): Require the defense department to submit its findings on the psychedelics trials that it would be required to conduct under the bill to VA, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and relevant congressional committees—and not just the House Armed Services Committee as the legislation currently says.
Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO): One amendment would express the sense of Congress that MDMA “should be recognized as a treatment” for PTSD and require the head of VA to create a plan for such treatment if FDA approves its use. A second amendment contains the same expression of the sentiment of Congress but does not include the action item for VA.
Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA): Express the sense of Congress that officials should investigate “all potential therapies, including the use of medicinal cannabis or psychedelics, to help our veterans to heal their visible and invisible wounds when returning home.”
Reps. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), Kelly Armstrong (R-ND), Stephanie Bice (R-OK), Nancy Mace (R-SC), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Steven Horsford (D-NV), Bobby Scott (D-VA), David Trone (D-MD) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA): Eliminate the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY): Ban the U.S. military practice of aerial fumigation in Colombia to eradicate crops like the coca plant used to manufacture cocaine. Garcia had said ahead of Tuesday’s meeting that he believed there could be “very bipartisan support” for the marijuana-related amendments, including his own on preventing security clearance denials for federal workers who admit to prior cannabis use. That didn’t pan out. While two psychedelics-related provisions of the House’s version of the NDAA were omitted from the final deal last year, 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.”
A number of other marijuana items—including an attempt to pass cannabis banking reform through the must-pass defense bill—were also excluded, to the disappointment of advocates and stakeholders.
Separately, the Senate Appropriations Committee recently released a report for a spending bill that calls on VA to facilitate medical marijuana access for veterans and explore the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.