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Republican Congressman Pete Sessions just blocked four more cannabis measures from appearing before the full House of Representatives for a vote, continuing a practice of preventing the country's legislators from debating cannabis reform. All four of these measures were drafted as amendments to the Fiscal Year 2019 budget bill, and Rep. Sessions struck down each and every one.
Three of these amendments would have expanded veterans' access to medical cannabis, most notably the Veterans Equal Access amendment, which would allow Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical cannabis to vets in canna-legal states. The second of these amendments would have prevented the VA department from firing veteran employees who legally consume medical marijuana.
Rep. Sessions also shut down an amendment that would have prevented the VA from stripping a veteran's benefits away as punishment for medical cannabis use. The fourth of these amendments, unrelated to veterans, would have prevented the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation form enforcing laws denying water rights to state-legal hemp or marijuana cultivators.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who authored the Veterans Equal Access amendment, as well as many other pieces of pro-cannabis legislation, criticized Sessions' interference. "For the second year, Pete Sessions has shown that he does not care about the health and well-being of our veterans — who are speaking out across the country," Blumenauer said, according to NORML.
"All they want is fair and equal treatment, and the ability to consult with their own physician on all treatment options. By blocking this vote, Chairman Sessions has turned his back on our wounded warriors, commonsense, and the will of the American people. He should be ashamed."
Rep. Sessions has a long history of blocking cannabis-related legislation that appears before the House Rules Committee. Last year, Sessions blocked the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, which prevented the Justice Department from interfering with state-legal medical cannabis programs, from being added to this year's budget bill.
Fortunately, legislators were able to include these protections this year, and Rep. Dave Joyce was also able to renew these protections for next year by proposing the amendment to the House Appropriations Committee rather than Sessions' committee.
Rep. Sessions has also worked to spread disinformation about cannabis, telling an assembly of doctors that marijuana was a gateway drug that leads to increased opioid abuse, despite a growing body of evidence supporting the opposite. Blumenauer has taken steps to bump Sessions and other anti-cannabis politicians out of office with help from the new Cannabis Fund Super PAC, which will provide funding to campaigns against Sessions and other enemies of cannabis reform.
Blumenauer told Marijuana Moment that Sessions' "miserable legacy" of blocking cannabis amendments was "in keeping with trying to discourage free flow of ideas here in the House." However, the Congressman believes that "it's ultimately going to be self-defeating because we are going to win on this. I don't think it helps the Republican leadership to be on the wrong side of history of something that even a majority of Republicans support. But it's a symbol of how far out of touch they are and how narrowly controlling."
The Senate Appropriations Committee will hear the Veterans Equal Access amendment today, and is expected to pass it, as they have for the past several years. A joint committee of both chambers will reconcile the two versions of the budget bill once they each individually approve it, but the committee has a history of stripping out any amendments relating to veterans and cannabis.