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Bipartisan Hemp, Medical Marijuana Bills Introduced in Congress [FEATURE]

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #772)

It's a marijuana policy trifecta on Capitol Hill now: recreational marijuana, medical marijuana, and hemp. Earlier this month, reformist House members filed bills to end federal pot prohibition and tax the trade and last week to legalize hemp. Now, some of those same legislators -- joined by more -- have filed bills that would protect medical marijuana patients and providers and some senators have filed their companion bill to legalize industrial hemp.

Kentucky Republicans McConnell and Paul are supporting hemp legislation in the Senate
Phase II took place Thursday, when Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), sponsor of the above-mentioned marijuana tax bill, rolled out House Resolution 689, the States' Medical Marijuana Protection Act; Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) introduced House Resolution 710, the Truth in Trials Act; and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and three co-sponsors filed the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013, the companion to House Resolution 525.

Blumenauer's bill would grant federal recognition to the use of medical marijuana and remove it from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. Regulating medical marijuana would be left to the states, and people complying with state medical marijuana laws would be exempt from federal arrest and prosecution.

It was introduced with bipartisan co-sponsorship, including Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Sam Farr (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Michael Honda (D-CA), Jared Huffman (D-CA) ), Barbara Lee (D-CA), James Moran (D-VA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

"The States' Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act will allow medical marijuana patients and businesses -- who are complying with state law -- the ability to access and distribute marijuana free from federal interference," Blumenauer said. "Nineteen jurisdictions have passed laws recognizing the importance of providing access to medical marijuana for the hundreds of thousands of patients who rely on it. It is time for the federal government to respect these decisions, and stop inhibiting safe access."

"There is a plethora of scientific evidence establishing marijuana’s medical safety and efficacy and public polling for marijuana law reform is skyrocketing," said Jasmine Tyler, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "However, when it comes to marijuana and the federal government, old fashioned politics routinely trumps modern science. The States' Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act offers us hope we will see significant change with its passage. Congress should move swiftly to acknowledge what patients, doctors, researchers and scientists have been telling us for years: marijuana has therapeutic and medicinal benefits," said Tyler.

Farr's Truth in Trials Act is an attempt to restore fairness in federal medical marijuana prosecutions. Because the federal government refuses to recognize marijuana as anything other than a proscribed controlled substance, medical marijuana defendants and their attorneys are barred from even mentioning it or their state laws allowing its use in federal court. That has repeatedly resulted in state law-abiding medical marijuana growers and providers being convicted as drug dealers in federal courts, and sentenced accordingly.

Similar legislation has been introduced in previous years, but made little progress. Now, however, as the Obama administration keeps up the pressure on medical marijuana providers and in the wake of November's election results, supporters hope the bill can gain some traction.

This year's bill is cosponsored by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Barbara Lee (D-CA), James Moran (D-VA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Jared Polis (D-Co), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and Henry Waxman (D-CA).

"The federal government for too long has denied due process to defendants who can demonstrate that they were using medical marijuana legally under local or state law," Farr said. "This bill would ensure that all the evidence is heard in a case and not just the evidence that favors conviction."

"Congress has the opportunity to establish a sensible public health policy on medical marijuana, and do what the Obama Administration has been afraid or unwilling to do," said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), which has been working with members of Congress to advance this legislation. "Patient advocates intend to push Congress to take heed of the abundant scientific evidence showing marijuana's medical value, and act in accordance with the overwhelming popular support this issue receives."

ASA is holding its first ever National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference this month in Washington, in part to do a big lobbying push for the bills. Attendees will convene in Washington on Friday, with the four-day conference culminating with a press conference and lobby day on Capitol Hill on Monday.

And then there was hemp. With Sen. Wyden's introduction of a Senate bill, there are now hemp bills in both houses. In addition to Wyden and Democratic and fellow Oregonian Sen. Jeff Merkley (D), the Senate hemp bill has the support of Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Senate party leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), both of whom have also endorsed hemp legislation back home in Kentucky.

"I am proud to introduce legislation with my friend Rand Paul and Senate colleagues, that will allow Kentucky farmers to harness the economic potential that industrial hemp can provide," McConnell said. "During these tough economic times, this legislation has the potential to create jobs and provide a boost to Kentucky's economy and to our farmers and their families."

"The Industrial Hemp Farming Act paves the way to creating jobs across the country -- from Kentucky to Oregon and everywhere else," Paul said. "Allowing American farmers to cultivate industrial hemp and benefit from its many uses will boost our states' economies and bring much-needed jobs in the agriculture community."

The House version of the bill was introduced earlier by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) and has 28 cosponsors: Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI), Dan Benishek (R-MI), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), John Campbell (R-CA), Lacy Clay (D-MO), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Sam Farr (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Richard Hanna (D-NY), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), George Miller (D-CA), James Moran (D-VA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Eleanor Norton (D-DC), Collin Peterson (D-MN), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Jared Polis (D-CO), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), John Yarmuth (D-KY), and Ted Yoho (R-FL).

The hemp bills would remove federal restrictions on the domestic cultivation of industrial hemp. Specifically, the bill would remove hemp from the Schedule I controlled substance list under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, and would define it as a non-drug so long as it contained less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Eight states, including Oregon, have already passed bills providing for legal hemp production, but action in those states is on hold because the DEA refuses to recognize any difference between hemp and marijuana. That means US hemp product manufacturers must import hemp from countries that do recognize the difference between hemp and marijuana.

"Unfortunately, there are some dumb regulations that are hurting economic growth and job creation, and the ban on growing industrial hemp is certainly among them," Wyden said. "The opportunities for American farmers and businesses are obvious here. It's time to boost revenues for farmers and reduce the costs for the businesses around the country that use hemp."

Congress now has a full-blown marijuana agenda on its plate, from pot legalization to industrial hemp to medical marijuana, if it chooses to address it. And, given the overlapping cosponsorships on the various bills, it now appears to have developed a cannabis caucus. We've already come a long way from the days when it was all up to Barney Frank and Ron Paul, and they've just been gone a few weeks.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Paul Pot (not verified)

A free and fair hemp industry would be a boon not only to the US economy but to the entire global economy. 

Hemp is a potential source of bio-mass for numerous industries from animal feed to fibers to construction materials and paper. These alone would make a massive industry that would be hard to keep up to. The farmer could sell every harvest without problem.

Tue, 02/19/2013 - 12:36pm Permalink
pukahn wukahn (not verified)

In reply to by Paul Pot (not verified)

the only thing that would make this better is if congress stopped paying farmers over a billion dollars a year to NOT farm over a million acres. that land is ideal for launching hemp production,

Tue, 02/19/2013 - 4:16pm Permalink
weedmex (not verified)

Consider adding to  HR 689 a provision that patients who are in possession of  a vaporizer, portable vaporizer (cannabinoid-cigarette) or 25-mg-per-toke "one-hitter" receive the courtesy of being exempted from suspicion of being prone to overdose harm or of infecting others (like children) by their example.    After all, the prohibition laws stem from fears of the dangers of cannabis from observing "stoner" effects which might be better attributed to smoking-related heat shock, carbon monoxide, PAH's etc.

Tragically "paraphernalia laws" (paranoia, infernal, alien, get it?) have driven many youngsters to choose hot burning overdose monoxide paper smoking (ZAP-- you're hooked on $igarettes) because why?-- a joint is EASIER TO HIDE or use up in a hurry for fear of getting caught with the paught

Licensed growers and dispensaries should be permitted to earn a side revenue manufacturing and selling safe anti-monoxide vape equipment to their legal buyers.   Entrepreneurs check out the socket wrench one-hitter (yes it really is a vape utensil) at "How to Make Pipes from Everyday Objects".

Tue, 02/19/2013 - 4:38pm Permalink
YellowSubmarine (not verified)

Who knew it would take THIS to possibly bring such a fractured Congress together to do something right for the American People? It will still take some REGULATION--a GOP dirty word, to maintain the use of THIS drug at least as well, and hopefully better than tobacco and alcohol. But as other writers have expressed, we should be able to see a significant improvement in tax collections, once allowed to used legally, a boon, at least to some extent, we hope, to the National [if not Global] Economies. And perhaps most significantly it will make great strides toward DECREASING criminal convictions and JAILS, and their associated expense , and help the reputation of our country and the situation of our citizens.

Tue, 02/19/2013 - 5:54pm Permalink
Uncle Bob (not verified)

I want to be excited about this, I WANT to feel jubilant.. but I have very little hope that any of this will pass.  How is this different from the bill introduced by Ron Paul and Barney Frank?  That bill never even got a hearing... 

In an earlier article on this site (the one about Blumenaur and Polis's new bill) members commented explaining that theirs was a Senate bill while Paul/Frank's was a House bill.. but that isn't true at all.  Blumenaur and Polis are both in the House, not the Senate.

The House is still controlled by Republicans.. what guarentee is there that any of this ever even gets a hearing, or even gets debated?  Should I be optimistic?  I really truly want to believe this is significant news, but I have such little faith that congress with enact anything.

Tue, 02/19/2013 - 8:20pm Permalink
kickback (not verified)

If  I`ve said it once , I`ve said it twice . Either you put your big boy " Big Green Tsunami " britches on or you run to the hills . You either get a grip or your arse will take a dip .

Wed, 02/20/2013 - 12:38am Permalink
Jeff Brown (not verified)

Marijuana aka hemp , cannabis is the most useful plant on the planet. Free market captitalism is the path to prosperity. Food, clothing, shelter, energy, medicine, insight, re creation. Hemp: Lifeline to the future. Its time for the politicians to do the will of the people.

Thu, 02/21/2013 - 4:31pm Permalink
Goofstr (not verified)

This is only about hemp not about marijuana. The scary part here is Mitch McConnell (R-KY.) Anytime that Mitch is happy more then likely Americans will suffer. He uses his political career to help special interest groups instead of his state, let alone what is good for America. If Mitch is behind something it probably involves some heavy special interest group. 

All I am saying is, whatever special interest group is behind his enthusiasm, it is probably not good for America. Think Monsanto and the soybean. 

Sun, 02/24/2013 - 7:16pm Permalink
DanRichesonAnonymous (not verified)

Declaration of Rights of Cannabis Users
Mission Statement: To bring an end to cannabis prohibition in 2013 by gathering signatory members through promotion and declaring our rights through the document, “Declaration of Rights of Cannabis Users”. Giving prohibitionists reasonable opportunity to affect appropriate, timely and agreed upon change and, if necessary enforcing our rights in a peaceful way. After April 20 2013 adopting a zero tolerance for acts of brutality and injustice by prohibitionists.
The laws regarding cannabis were born on the wings of lies and pampered by propaganda such that now the tightly held belief systems are going to have to reckon with the desire of all humanity to live with dignity, free from the oppressive tyranny that ignorance and bigotry have spawned.

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
 Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
 Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.
 Whereas for too long now it has been observed that disregard and contempt for human rights has been allowed to exist in the body of politically motivated law that outlaws the possession, cultivation and use of cannabis by adults. The signatories of this Declaration wish to live in peace in this society, have been engaged in constant communication with their elected representatives individually or as part of groups. The actions of the government in this regards demonstrates continued contempt and disregard that we the undersigned feel that we have NO RECOURSE but to regard our government and some of our fellow citizens as hostile towards our declared rights and indifferent to the tyranny, oppression and terrorism that we have too long had to deal with.
 Whereas by this declaration we provide the opportunity and impudence for representatives to engage in good faith negotiations which will lead to peaceful coexistence
 Whereas we the undersigned do hereby declare that IT IS OUR RIGHT to cultivate, possess and use cannabis AND that any law that says otherwise will be treated by us as the tool of tyranny.
 Whereas we the undersigned in declaring our desire to realize our liberties and our desire to live in peace also recognize that the point is near where our rights and liberties will have to be defended.
 Whereas we the undersigned are willing to do all we can to avoid conflict we hope that this WARNING also provides our fellow citizens and our representatives the impudence to also seek peace and understanding within our society.
[Your name] 

Tue, 02/26/2013 - 10:08pm Permalink
Laila (not verified)

There is not a more intolerant group of legislator's in the world among the once referred to 39 Industrialized Nation's on Earth than that of legislators here in the United States Of America when it comes to progress forward in the area of Social change; that includes Marijuana Rights, Labor Laws, Unions, Executive Compensation, and Education to name a few.

Tue, 03/18/2014 - 3:52am Permalink

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