Advocates Call for New Way to Pass Cannabis Legalization in the U.S. Senate | TRICHOMES Morning Buzz
Cannabis News Update April 27, 2021
Today in cannabis news: A group of Congressional Democrats call for the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. to have hemp in its national plant inventory for the first time; federal officials investigate if Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz accepted bribes and underage escorts as part of an attempt to sway his views on medical cannabis; and advocates call for a new way to pass cannabis legalization in the Senate with some Democrat votes in doubt.
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** First up: A group of Congressional Democrats are calling for the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. to have hemp in its national plant inventory for the first time ever.
Reps. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) submitted to the establishment requesting that the garden incorporate hemp in its exhibit, stating that the low-THC cannabis variant is now federally legalized and has a variety of applications in nutrition, medication, and manufacturing.
“The plants might ideally be located in the ‘medicinal plants’ part of the Botanic Garden,” they wrote “Given that hemp is legal and enjoys national, bipartisan support, now is an appropriate time for the Botanic Garden to display hemp plants.”
The letter says that although cannabis is illegal under federal statute, cannabis crops containing under 0.3% THC are identified as hemp, which Congress approved via the 2018 Farm Bill. The letter also noted that hemp has served a major role in American history, regardless of past federal prohibition.
“Hemp has a long history of cultivation in the U.S. Hemp was grown by most of the Founders, and in 2018, George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate harvested its first hemp crop since 1799,” they wrote. “All ships in every war prior to World War II had ropes and sails made from hemp grown in the U.S. Until the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which was found to be unconstitutional in 1969, hemp was a major agricultural commodity in the U.S.”
** Next up: Federal officials are investigating if a visit to the Bahamas in 2018 including Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz and a number of girls under the age of 18 years was part of a coordinated attempt to sway Gaetz’s position on medical cannabis.
Investigators with the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section are reviewing if Gaetz, in return for political services, accepted bribes, such as flights and hired escorts. Authorities are looking at if Gaetz had an affair with a then-17-year-old girl as in a continuing investigation on him. Sources have told CNN that prosecutors are looking into Gaetz’s ties to medical cannabis with legislation he’s introduced and links to industry professionals, looking for “pay-to-play” deals.
Gaetz has a lengthy record of campaigning for medical cannabis, and as both a Florida representative and Congressperson, he has sponsored many legislative proposals aimed at loosening the regulations governing the plant. Jason Pirozzolo, a Florida doctor who formed a medical cannabis activist organization and self-described “cannabis entrepreneur,” is one of Gaetz’ closest advisors with connections to the industry. As per sources, Pirozzolo traveled with Gaetz to the Bahamas in 2018, into which authorities are investigating.
** Although Democrats hold the majority in the Senate, there might not be enough votes among them to pass substantive cannabis reform legislation. Now, advocates are proposing a new plan to get cannabis legalization through the Senate.
Acknowledging the difficulties of obtaining 60 votes to resolve a filibuster for individual bills in the chamber, advocates are pressing lawmakers to implement the legislative reform with a budget reconciliation, which requires only a 51-vote simple majority.
At a recent press conference, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who is leading the cannabis policy reform drive in the Senate, did not disregard the option.
When asked whether legislators will seek to include the cannabis plan in reconciliation, they said that “you will hear in a few weeks the legislation that’ll answer” the question.
Chris Lindsey, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment, “Leader Schumer is taking seriously his commitment to see legalization happen at the federal level, and address the ongoing harm from prohibition. We have no doubt he is looking at all vehicles that can accomplish reform.”