House Republicans Got a Head Start on Cannabis Legislation for Gun Owners and Veterans

House Republicans get early jump on marijuana bills for gun owners and veterans

After the commotion over Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) election to the speakership subsided, the Republican-led House of Representatives wasted no time in introducing the first cannabis bills of the 118th Congress.

On January 13th, Representative Alex Mooney (R-WV) introduced the Second Amendment Protection Act. The goal of the legislation is to make it permissible for anyone who has a medicinal marijuana card to buy and keep weapons. The legislation on the books in the United States currently forbids them from doing so.

The Veterans Cannabis Use for Safe Healing Act was introduced by Republican Florida Representative Greg Steube on January 18. To ensure that veterans do not forfeit government benefits due to their use of medical marijuana, the proposed legislation would enshrine in law the current policy that allows veterans to discuss marijuana with VA doctors.

Similar legislation has been introduced previously by the same sponsors. Two other senators signed on as co-sponsors for Mooney’s bill, and Steube had already tried twice without success to get his own bill passed.

Per the author, “Both of these are upgrades above the current situation. Veteran cannabis supporter and lobbyist Justin Strekal, who now directs the BOWL PAC, told Leafly, “I think Congress has the political potential for—and the American people deserves—more real reforms.”

He went on to say that “the two proposals are extremely restricted pieces of legislation that in previous Congresses did not gain much support from other Republican senators.” Even though half of Americans now reside in adult-use states, “both of them are exclusively focused on addressing medical state issues.”

Will These Bills Fare Better in A Gop-Run House?

Both proposals stalled during the past two administrations, but with the Republican majority in the House, they could get a second chance.

Don Murphy, a conservative liaison for the Marijuana Policy Project and Republican Convention delegate four times over, sounded an upbeat note.

House Republicans get early jump on marijuana bills for gun owners and veteransSince the Republicans are in the majority, he believes that these bills have a stronger chance of passing. When you’re in the majority, you have more pressure to produce results. When you’re the one with the gavel, people look at you differently.

 

Some of these peripheral bills will be considered and passed. I don’t know if they’ll make it through the Senate,” Murphy said.

Second Amendment Bill Would Solve a Persistent Issue, but Only for MMJ Patients

If passed into law, Representative Mooney’s proposal would begin to unravel the legal web that stops Americans from legally carrying both firearms and marijuana.

The federal Gun Control Act of 1968 complicates matters because it makes it illegal for anyone to carry a firearm or ammunition if they are also in possession of a restricted narcotic.

When filling out a form to purchase a firearm, applicants must indicate whether or not they are “unlawful users of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other restricted substance.” Any intentional misrepresentation on that form may result in criminal penalties.

I believe this question has produced millions of criminals. “You can’t think that somebody in Colorado who under Colorado state law is legally smoking marijuana has never acquired a handgun,” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), a co-sponsor of an earlier version of Mooney’s measure, told Marijuana Moment in 2019. Saying something like that is nonsensical is an understatement. On the other hand”

Mooney’s proposal would exempt adults who buy cannabis in legal states from its restrictions, as long as they do it for medical purposes. The Marijuana Policy Project reports that by May of 2021, almost 5.5 million Americans have enrolled as medical marijuana patients.

In addition to Mooney, four other Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors of his bill: David Joyce (Ohio), Nancy Mace (North Carolina), Thomas Massie, and Brian Mast (FL).

Veterans Bill Has Narrow Scope, but Is Valuable Nonetheless

The goal of Representative Steube’s bill, which he has introduced in various forms over the course of two Congresses, is to formalize the practice under which VA doctors are permitted to discuss medical marijuana with their patients. And it prevents vets from losing benefits because they are using marijuana for medical purposes.

However, it does not authorize VA doctors to recommend cannabis to their patients.

Veterans need to be given the treatment they deserve, and as a veteran myself, I know that sometimes that care includes medical marijuana,” Steube said in a statement.

According to Murphy, the bill has a chance of passing the Senate’s Veteran Affairs Committee. “A handful of decent Republicans on Veteran Affairs have previously supported SAFE banking. How can you vote for SAFE Banking and oppose veteran banking access? He told Leafly that Republican support from veterans is crucial to the party’s success.

Are More Cannabis Bills on The Way?

There is still plenty of time for further bills to be presented or reintroduced in the 118th Congress.

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-NC) became a leading voice for cannabis reform last year when she presented the States Reform Act to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. The momentum behind that particular bill might be rekindled. (Politico’s Natalie Fertig reports that Mace has just declared her goal to become the “godmother” of cannabis.)

“You have leaders like Representatives Mace and Dave Joyce [R-OH], who have each previously presented legislation to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and thereby put an end to marijuana prohibition.” It’s in both of their plans to do it again this Congress, according to what Strekal told Leafly.

Rep. Mace may reintroduce a bill this year that would reduce taxes for cannabis companies that are operating legally.

Furthermore, legislators have been carrying the SAFE Banking Act around for years, like Sisyphus carrying the rock, and they may try again this Congress.

Murphy thinks that SAFE has a better chance of passing if it is introduced in the Senate rather than the House, where it has been introduced in previous legislative sessions. Currently, “the House is the heavier lift,” he explained.

Regarding a timeline for these other measures, Strekal did not seem very enthusiastic.

They spent an entire week trying to choose a new Speaker. “I’m not anticipating things that actually wind up getting done to get done incredibly rapidly in the GOP House,” he told Leafly.

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