The recent midterms has shifted the balance of power, and of opinion, on the Hill. This is especially true in regards to marijuana legislation. According to a recent article in TheHill.com with the ousting of former House Rules Committee Chair Jeff Sessions (R-TX), the newly minted chair, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), will now allow House floor members to vote on marijuana-related legislation. Under Sessions, over three dozen marijuana-related amendments were blocked. Rep. McGovern promises to make "common sense" legislative measures relating to marijuana a priority. Some of these measures (of which some were previously blocked by Sessions) include limiting federal interference in legal marijuana states, expanding medical cannabis access for veterans, and amending federal banking restrictions on the legal cannabis industry.
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Over in the Senate, changes are also in the works. This is particularly the case for hemp. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised on Friday to include provisions for lifting restrictions on hemp in The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (e.g. the "Farm Bill"). The Farm Bill is reported to have a 65% chance of passing, according to Delta Farm Press, the local information authority for farmers across much of America's "breadbasket". Hemp comes from a variant strain of Cannabis Sativa and has a much lower percentage of the mind-altering chemical, THC. In fact, the THC content of hemp will need to be less than 0.3% of THC to be declassified as Schedule I and allowed for industrial use.
Members of Congress have been filing marijuana and drug policy reform proposals for some time now. Some have actually passed in the House. Nevertheless, only one (which protects state medical cannabis laws from Justice Department interference) has made the law books. That was back in 2016. The Congress today now includes members from twenty-nine states that allow cannabis use in some form. Now congressional debates will include representatives of constituents who rely on marijuana, either for business or medicinal purposes. It will be interesting to see how this shapes legislation in 2019.
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The Trump Administration has shifting views on marijuana. As part of his presidential campaign, President Trump promised to leave the issue up to the states. After being elected, the Trump Administration has somewhat reversed course. Small maneuvers, such as seeking legal resolutions for those states which regulate the growth and sale of recreational marijuana, has given the current Administration a more federalist tone. Medical marijuana and recreational marijuana are two separate entities, at least according to Sean Spicer back in 2017, and recreational use should be under the control of the Department of Justice. On the other hand, in April of 2018 Trump reaffirmed his commitment to respecting state's rights. Whether this was sincere or merely a move to appease Sen. Cory Gardner - who had been blocking Trump's DOJ nominees - can never be known, but it does seem to fit the give-and-take nature of the Presidency. Pot politics are still politics after all.