Next week, a key House committee will be holding a hearing focused on federal cannabis reform, just two months after another committee advanced a comprehensive legalization bill. The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will be holding this hearing, titled “Cannabis Policies for the New Decade,” on January 15th.
“As public opinion continues to evolve and cannabis policies change at all levels of government, it’s important to bring federal agency officials together to discuss current and future federal cannabis policies,” said Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) in a statement. “We’re particularly interested in examining the implications of changing marijuana’s schedule listing, the potential of cannabis research, and federal efforts to review and approve cannabidiol products.”
Beyond this basic information, the subcommittee has yet to divulge exactly what legislation they might discuss at the hearing. The press release for the hearing promises to provide the Committee Memorandum, the list of witnesses who will give testimony, and a list of bills up for consideration, but none of the specifics have been detailed yet. The hearing will also be available to view as a live webcast.
“The Energy and Commerce committee taking up marijuana reform is an unprecedented and welcome development,” said Justin Strekal, political director of NORML, to Marijuana Moment. “As the MORE Act continues to move through the process, the House is poised to become the first chamber of Congress in history to pass a bill to end prohibition.”
Two months ago, the House Judiciary Committee voted to approve the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, the first time any congressional committee has ever advanced a comprehensive cannabis reform measure. If passed, this bill would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, effectively ending federal cannabis prohibition. The bill would impose a five-percent tax on all state-legal weed sales, and would also create a pathway to allow former cannabis offenders to clear their criminal records for good.
Earlier this week, the MORE Act advanced further toward a full House vote, after the Small Business Committee agreed to yield jurisdiction over the bill. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), sponsor of the bill, told Marijuana Moment that he was “carrying on conversations” with other committee chairs to see if they would also waive their jurisdictions, allowing the bill to advance more quickly to a vote.
“I don’t anticipate that to be a big problem,” Nadler said. “We are looking forward to moving this to the floor at an appropriate time when we’ve done some more educational work and have the votes.” The bill must pass several committees, including Agriculture, Education and Labor, Ways and Means, and Oversight and Reform, before it can come up for a full vote.
Most of these committees have not announced their plans to debate or yield jurisdiction over the bill, leaving its future uncertain. An official with the National Resources Committee told Marijuana Moment that he “wouldn’t put us down as a potential obstacle” to the bill's success, however, removing one more hurdle on the road to federal legalization.