Democrats in Congress have abandoned two marijuana proposals that were veteran-based and previously approved by Congress as part of their large-scale defense bill.
The House approved its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this summer. The legislation had several changes that would prevent the United States Department of Veteran Affairs from denying the veterans’ home loans applications due to their employment status in the legal marijuana sector.
The bill had another policy that would have allowed the military branches to reenlist service members convicted of single simple marijuana offenses.
However, the Senate did not have similar proposals in their legislation, but the leaders from the two bodies agreed to scrap some of the additional policies during the negotiations.
The Democrats did not cede on all the amendments that were not similar to the House legislation; but, both parties made compromises on the amendment proposals where the House withdrew about 630 provisions while the Senate ceded approximately 600.
The House conference negotiators did not view the marijuana measure as a priority. However, according to the sponsors of the bill, marijuana policies were to be prioritized as they represented urgent needs for the veterans and service members.
The home loan amendment provisions were made by Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA). In May, Clark circulated a sign-on letter addressed to Veteran Affairs. The letter raised the issue and noted that a veteran in her district was denied home loan benefits because he was working in the marijuana industry.
The reenlistment waiver proposal was sponsored by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ). During a committee hearing in June, Gallego stressed that the country needs to think about military enlistment policies regarding marijuana felonies, especially looking at the recruitment crisis.
Gallego further said that the country’s views on marijuana consumption are changing, and the military has adjusted its recruitment process. He also noted that where necessary, the military can grant waivers to former simple marijuana convicts who want to serve their country.
According to a summary of the legislation, the House conference negotiators agreed on a bill funding “drug interdiction and counter-drug activities” by giving them $1 billion. The bill also calls for an assessment of the impact of any planned border wall construction would have on the quantity of narcotics entering the U.S. The bill includes the Fentanyl Sanctions Act, which puts in place several economic and financial sanctions to cease the operation of international opioid traffickers.
It is uncertain if the House Democrats will fight for the marijuana reform language in the appropriations negotiations. The current temporary spending legislation expires on December 20, and their goal is to finalize the full 2020 Fiscal Year appropriation before the expiration date.
In June, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) withdrew a policy that would have permitted Veteran Affairs to prescribe medical marijuana to military veterans during the House consideration of the VA appending bill.
Analysts believe that cannabis industry actors, such as HTC Extraction Systems (TSX.V: HTC) (OTCQB: HTPRF) and Lexaria Bioscience Corp. (CSE: LXX) (OTCQX: LXRP), may not be too pleased that veterans will continue to be victimized for their involvement in state-legal marijuana programs.
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