Yet another new cannabis bill introduced to congress would alleviate the friction between Attorney General Jeff Session’s anti-cannabis views and cannabis-friendly state laws. The bill would reschedule cannabis under the DEA’s classification system, downgrading it from Schedule I to Schedule III, a category that includes the likes of Tylenol, codeine, and ketamine. Still unnamed, House Bill H.R.2020 was introduced by Florida representatives Matt Gaetz, a Republican, and Darren Soto, a Democrat.
According to Gaetz, the bill would allow cannabis businesses to freely utilize banking services, open the door for more extensive research, and most urgently, would protect the rights of states that have legalized cannabis. “I have supported cannabis reform as a state legislator, and I want to see the people that I fought for in my state have access to a legal, high-quality product that’s been well-researched,” he said. During his time in the Florida state legislature, Gaetz supported legislation to legalize the medical use of “non-euphoric” marijuana, as well as legislation to allow terminally ill patients access to normal, non-smokeable cannabis. Both succeeded in becoming state law. However, in the past, Gaetz had opposed medical cannabis legislation, until he saw Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s CNN special report, called “Weed.” The report documented the experiences of medical cannabis patients and the countless obstacles to further research. After, watching the special, Gaetz says he decided to take action.
The new legislation he and representative Soto proposed would not, however, affect recreational cannabis businesses. It instead focuses on clearing a path for research and allowing medicinal cannabis businesses to openly use banking services. “It’s a modest step forward to try to find the most possible common ground. I’ve seen that work,” Gaetz explained. The current Schedule I classification is particularly limiting when it comes to the world of cannabis research. Studies approved by the federal government are forced to source cannabis from growers at the University of Mississippi. Their product has been widely criticized and is said to not come close to the quality and potency of cannabis available in dispensaries.
H.R.2020 adds to a list of several bipartisan bills recently introduced to the House of Representatives that has aimed at protecting the rights of states that have legalized recreational cannabis use. The surge in proposed legislation follows inflammatory statements from Trump’s attorney general Jeff Sessions, and from the White House press secretary, suggesting there could be greater enforcement of federal law. While the administration has offered few specifics on what exactly that would entail, representatives and governors from legal and medical states have been seeking to protect cannabis activity in their states. At his confirmation hearing in January, Sessions said: “If [cannabis prohibition] is something not desired any longer, Congress should pass a law to change the rule. It is not the Attorney General’s job to decide what laws to enforce.” Congress may even take Sessions up on his suggestion, with several Republicans leading the charge, presenting bills with substantial bipartisan support.