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Seven 2017 Cannabis Legalization Bills in Play and What That Means for the Industry

November 29, 2017 by David Hodes

There is now a wide assortment of bills in Congress related to cannabis (and hemp) legalization and use. And while me these bills have not seen movement in 2017, the sheer number of them introduced in 2017 are creating a perfect story attention from Congress and more active committee discussion in 2018.

Here are a seven of the most active or long-ranging bills that cannabis business owners should be tracking and why:

1. Marijuana Effective Drug Study Act of 2017 (Senate bill 1803 sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and introduced September 13). The bill is designed to improve the process for conducting scientific research on marijuana as a safe and effective medical treatment. In introducing this legislation, Senator Hatch was joined by Senator Schatz (0-HI) and co-sponsors Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), and Se Thom Tillis (R-NC). Since then, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) have also sigrn on as cosponsors. The bill currently resides in the Senate Judiciary Committee. In announcing the bill, Hatch sai country has experimented with a variety of state solutions "without properly delving into the weeds on the effectiveness, safety, dosing, administration, and quality of medical marijuana." In his speech on the Senate floo1 Hatch reminded his colleagues that "it would be no surprise that he is strongly against the use of recreational marijuana. But I worry that in our zeal to enforce the law, we too often blind ourselves to the medicinal benefits o natural substances like cannabis," he said. "While I certainly do not support the use of marijuana for recreational purposes, the evidence shows that cannabis possesses medicinal properties that can truly change people's live~ the better." Why this bill matters: Hatch, a Mormon and a conservative, is a late convert to the benefits of medical marijuana and shows just how far acceptance for medical marijuana has come.

2. The Marijuana Justice Act (Senate bill 1689 sponsored by Senator Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, and introduced August 1 ). Booker introduced his bill with a flurry of press, much of it addressing how his bill would create repara for those communities and individuals damaged from law enforcement and wrongful incarceration. It called for$! million to fix the damages from the war on drugs. But no co-sponsors have joined, and the bill currently resides ii Senate Judiciary Committee. Why this bill matters: Booker is seen as a rising star in Congress and took a polit risk by introducing this bill. The bill attempts to correct the effects of the war on drugs and the racial disparities in enforcement, which makes it accessible to support from other members of Congress as part of a broader bi-part social agenda.

3. Veterans Equal Access Act (House bill 1820 sponsored by Representative Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, and introduced March 30). Blumenauer is one of the foremost proponents of cannabis legalization in Congress who i co-creator of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment that bars the Justice Deparment from using its funds to down medical marijuana facilities in states where medical marijuana is legal. He also supports the Americans for Safe Access group, and the bill for which that organization advocates - the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act (CARERS). This bill has 18 co-sponsors, including Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) and Representative Tom Garrett (R-VA), all of whom a sponsors or co-sponsors of other marijuana-related bills. It has not moved since it was referred to the House Subcommittee on Health just a day after it was introduced. Why this bill matters: More veterans organizations · such as the American Legion, as demonstrated during a recent press conference on the Hill - are stepping up ti efforts to legalize marijuana for pain management and PTSD, and will be using this bill or introducing others in tr coming year to finally get what they want - or at least get closer to what they want.

4. Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act (House bill 2920 sponsored by Representative Steve Cohen, D-Tennessee, and introduced June 15). This bill is designed to extend the principl• federalism to state drug policy, provide access to medical marijuana, and enable research into the medicinalproperties of marijuana. One of the most active marijuana legalization related bills, it has a record (for marijuana bills) 25 co-sponsors now, with ten joining since the beginning of October, including three just this week. Cosponsors include legalization advocates sponsoring or co-sponsoring other marijuana legalization bills: Reps. Rohrabacher, Thomas, Blumenauer and Polis. The bill currently resides in three House committees: Energy and Commerce, Judiciary and Veterans' Affairs. Why this bill m~tters: This bill is about helping seriously sick peopl treatment - especially children and others with epilepsy - and help fix the opioid epidemic. Because of the child epilepsy issue, this bill makes it easier for advocates of the bill to demonstrate real-world medical solutions that change live~ to fence-sitting members of Congress.

5. Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act (House bill 1841, sponsored by Representative Jared Polis, D-Colorado, ar
introduced March 30). This bill was originally referred to five House committees - Judiciary, Energy and Comme
Ways and Means (subcommittee on Trade), Natural Resources (subcommittee on Federal Lands) and Agricultur
has 17 co-sponsors (16 Democrats), including seven from California and both legalization advocates on other bi
(Representative Earl Blumenauer and Dana Rohrabacher). Why this bill matters: This bill puts the legalization
matter to a straight-forward solution that makes it easier to understand, with the hope that it helps Congress see
reasonable and historical pathway to legalization.

6. Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017 (House bill 1227, sponsored by Representative Tom Garrett, F
Virginia, and introduced on February 27). This bill is essentially the same bill as a similar 2015 Bernie Sanders b
about ending federal prohibition which stalled in committee. This bill amends the Controlled Substances Act to
provide that the Act's regulatory controls and administrative, civil, and criminal penalties do not apply to marijuar
"Senator Sanders had an identical bill," Garrett says. "I know that because my legislative staff poached the bill. ft
really changed was the spelling of marijuana. His bill spelled it 'marihuana' ." It has 15 co-sponsors, including lea
legalization advocates Blumenauer, Polis and Rohrabacher. It was referred to the House Subcommittee on Crim
Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations in mid-March. Why this bill matters: Revising an essentially d
version of this bill created a stir originally but has since followed in the same pathway of other legalization bills b~
stalling in committee. But it is one of the oldest bills that directly addresses the need for ending federal prohibitio
and could be the bill that actually does that.

7. Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017 (House bill 975, sponsored by Representative Dana Rohrabacher, R
California, and introduced February 7). This bill also amends the Controlled Substances Act to provide that the ft
regulatory controls and administrative, civil, and criminal penalties do not apply to a person who produces,
possesses, distributes, dispenses, administers, or delivers marijuana in compliance with state laws. It has 24 co·
sponsors, including both Representatives Blumenauer and Polis, and now resides in the House Subcommittee c
Health where it has been three days after it was introduced. Why this bill matters: This bill promotes the state'~
right issue of marijuana legalization, a critical component of keeping the industry moving forward and focused or
country-wide legalization.