House lawmakers will hold a hearing next week to discuss bipartisan marijuana reform issues at the federal and state level.
The House Oversight Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee posted a notice of the meeting on Tuesday, as voters in states across the country head to the polls to decide on cannabis legalization ballot measures.
The congressional meeting, titled, “Developments in State Cannabis Laws and Bipartisan Cannabis Reforms at the Federal Level,” will take place on November 15. Witness have not yet been announced.
It’s not clear if the hearing will focus on any specific pieces of federal marijuana reform legislation, but Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), who serves as the GOP ranking member on the panel, previously told Marijuana Moment that she had received a “promise” from leadership that her States Reform Act (SRA) would be taken under consideration in the panel.
That legislation would end federal marijuana prohibition while taking specific steps to ensure that businesses in existing state markets can continue to operate unencumbered by changing federal rules.
In April, the House already passed a separate cannabis legalization bill, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, from Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) for the second time.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), chair of the Oversight subcommittee, has also expressed interest in cannabis reform issues. For example, he filed a floor amendment to the MORE Act to require federal agencies to review security clearance denials going back to 1971 and retroactively make it so cannabis could not be used “as a reason to deny or rescind a security clearance.” That measure was narrowly defeated in a floor vote.
While details about the newly announced meeting are sparse, the panel will likely have new state developments to consider after Tuesday’s election, which will see five states deciding on marijuana legalization at the ballot, including several traditionally conservative states.
This month also marks the 10-year anniversary of the first state votes to legalize cannabis for adult-use in Colorado and Washington State.
To mark the occassion, Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) recently announced that he will soon be filing a bill to direct the attorney general to create a commission charged with making recommendations on a regulatory system for marijuana that models what’s currently in place for alcohol.
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The most recent House action on marijuana reform came in late September, when the Judiciary Committee approved a series of criminal justice reform bills—including bipartisan proposals to clear records for prior federal marijuana convictions, provide funding for states that implement systems of automatic expungements and codify retroactive relief for people incarcerated due to on crack-cocaine sentencing disparities.
There was also expected to be an expedited vote in the Senate on a House-passed cannabis research bill in September, but that was delayed after a GOP senator raised an objection.
Also on the Senate side, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has been working to finalize a package of incremental marijuana legislation, which is expected to include cannabis industry banking protections and expungements proposals.
Schumer recently said that Congress is getting “very close” to introducing and passing the marijuana bill, colloquially known as SAFE Plus, following discussions with a “bunch of Republican senators.”
The Oversight panel may also discuss recent actions by President Joe Biden to issue a mass pardon for people who’ve committed federal marijuana possession offenses and direct an administrative review of cannabis scheduling under federal law.
Biden told college students at a rally on Monday that the fate of marijuana reform rests on their votes. The comments came as the White House is separately touting the president’s recent pardons as part of the administration’s plan to promote “equity and fairness in the justice system” to support the Black community.
Image element courtesy of Tim Evanson.