Members of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health today held a legislative hearing, “Cannabis Policies for the New Decade,” during which they considered multiple legislative bills aimed at amending federal cannabis laws. This marks the first time that members of the Energy and Commerce Committee have debated issues specific to marijuana policy reform.
However, during the three-hour hearing, members declined to explicitly discuss the merits of any specific cannabis measure before the committee.
“At a time when nearly 70 percent of all Americans want to end our failed federal policy of blanket cannabis criminalization, it is unfortunate to see so many participants at this hearing advocating largely for business as usual,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri. He continued: “The fact of the matter is that legalization and regulation work. Eleven states regulate the adult use of marijuana and 33 states provide for medical cannabis access. The time for federal policy to reflect this political and cultural reality is now, Congress should promptly approve the MORE Act and put the failed legacy of marijuana criminalization behind us.”
NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano expressed disappointment that Committee members failed to advance any of the bills before it, but was not surprised. “Many of these proposals, like The MORE Act, seek to fundamentally change federal marijuana policies,” he said. “However, the witnesses before the committee are proponents and purveyors of the status quo.”
He added that a key-word search on PubMed, the repository for peer-reviewed research, identifies some 32,000 studies specific to cannabis and its constituents. “While additional research is always welcome, it is not accurate to claim that we do not already have ample data to make evidence-based decisions with regard to marijuana policy,” he said.
Cannabis Caucus Co-Chair Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) stated, “I’m pleased Chairman Pallone and Health Subcommittee Chair Eshoo made this hearing a priority. It was important to hear a number of senior members of Congress affirming the change that is taking place at the state level and affirming the contradictions that are created by the federal government being out of step and out of touch. It’s past time for Congress to catch up with the American people.”
Six cannabis-related bills are currently before the committee, including HR 3884, the MORE Act, which recently was approved in the House Judiciary Committee by a bipartisan vote of 24-10 and waived by the House Small Business Committee.
Committee members announced their intent to hold a follow up hearing in the future.
Witnesses at today’s hearing were:
Matthew J. Strait, Senior Policy Advisor, Diversion Control Division, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
Douglas Throckmorton, M.D., Deputy Director for Regulatory Programs, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Nora D. Volkow, M.D., Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse National Institutes of Health (NIDA)
The text of NORML’s written testimony to the committee is available online here.