Cannabis reform is still quite controversial. Reform activists have had a hard time getting reform past lawmakers who oppose cannabis for a variety of reasons. In many cases, they have been forced to give up certain provisions in their cannabis initiatives to make them more palatable to Republican and Democratic lawmakers who were withholding their support. A recent report from the Senate Intelligence Committee has revealed that the panel did just that last month.
In late June, the Senate committee voted in favor of a measure that would make it possible for people who had used cannabis in the past to work for intelligence agencies such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA). The measure was then attached to the Intelligence Authorization Act, which was slated to go through both chambers before reaching the president’s desk. However, the report says that the committee adopted a scaled-back version of the original proposal instead.
The original version, which would have provided cannabis users with even more protections, was dialed down to make it more attractive and increase its chances of passing. In fact, the vote tally reveals that the scaled-back version of the proposal even drew the support of notorious antilegalization lawmaker Senator Tom Cotton. The proposal was first introduced by Senator Ron Wyden and attached to the Intelligence Authorization Act as an amendment.
The report notes that the proposal would have barred any federal agency from limiting their employees’ access to classified information due to past or current marijuana use. However, a scaled-back, second-degree amendment from Chairman Mark Warner and Senator Michael Bennet toned down Wyden’s original proposal and limited cannabis protections to individuals working for federal intelligence agencies.
Furthermore, the scaled-down amendment changed the language from “past or present” marijuana use to “pre-employment” marijuana consumption. According to a spokesperson from Warner’s office, Warner offered the revised proposal after the first version of the amendment failed to garner enough votes. Ultimately, the revised amendment passed in an 11 to 5 vote that saw notable members of the senate such as Senators Cotton, Diane Feinstein and Susan Collins — all of whom have a long history of opposing cannabis reform — supporting the legislation.
However, this vote may be indicative of a shift in perspective for the two latter senators, especially in regard to modest cannabis reform. Collins has previously supported proposals on access to cannabis by veterans and cannabis banking reform while Feinstein is a proponent of cannabis research.
While the cannabis industry and its actors such as Cannabis Strategic Ventures Inc. (OTC: NUGS) would have preferred to see sweeping marijuana reforms at the federal level, the incremental approach now seems the more realistic way, and advocates need to exercise patience as the process plays out over time.
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