House Appropriations Committee leaders have included even more marijuana provisions in newly released spending bills and attached reports, including a novel section that encourages sports regulators to push international officials to “change how cannabis is treated” when it comes to suspending athletes from competition over positive tests.

The past week has seen a flurry of marijuana proposals included in appropriations legislation that covers Fiscal Year 2023 funding for various federal agencies. These latest bills and reports deal with spending packages for the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services (HHS) and Education, as well as Financial Services and General Government (FSGG).

Many of the sections have been largely carried over from past measures—such as protections for universities that research cannabis and a requested review of federal drug testing policies. But for FSGG, there’s new report language addressing an issue that came to the fore last summer after U.S. sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson was suspended from an Olympic event due to a positive test for THC.

The suspension made international headlines, received attention from the White House and prompted the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to initiate a scientific review to determine whether it’s appropriate to continue penalizing athletes over marijuana, treating it like a performance enhancing drug.

Appropriators are now requesting action from the U.S. sports regulators:

“U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.—The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) manages the anti-doping program for all U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee recognized sports, which includes a program for testing athletes for performance-enhancing substances to ensure clean competition. The Committee encourages USADA to support additional research on the effects of cannabis on athletic performance, including whether marijuana use during the in-competition period delivers performance-enhancing effects, and to engage in efforts to change how cannabis is treated under the World Anti-Doping Code and World Anti-Doping Agency Prohibited List.”

The FSGG report also more broadly addresses drug testing requirement for federal workers, as previous versions have done in the past. But this time, there’s a new line that specifically urges the executive branch to apply drug testing standards with “consistency and fairness”:

“Federal Employee Hiring.—The Committee encourages OPM and the Suitability Executive Agent to continue to review policies and guidelines regarding hiring and firing of individuals who use marijuana in states where that individual’s private use of marijuana is not prohibited under the law of the State. These policies should reflect updated changes to the law on marijuana usage and clearly state the impact of marijuana usage on Federal employment. The Committee encourages the Administration to apply these policies with consistency and fairness.”

Meanwhile, in the education spending bill, there’s again a section that would prevent the Department of Education from penalizing universities simply because the institutions are conducting research into marijuana.

“SEC. 314. None of the funds appropriated by this title for the Department of Education shall be withheld from an institution of higher education solely because that institution is conducting or preparing to conduct research on marihuana as defined in 21 U.S.C. 802(16).”

To the disappointment of reform advocates, however, the legislation maintains an existing rider that many feel inhibits research into the risks and benefits of Schedule I drugs such as cannabis and certain psychedelics. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has tried to remove the section in the interest of promoting research, but her amendment was defeated on the House floor on two occassions, with most of her Democratic colleagues joining GOP members in opposition to the proposal. Here’s that text:

“SEC. 507. (a) None of the funds made available in this Act may be used for any activity that promotes the legalization of any drug or other substance included in schedule I of the schedules of controlled substances established under section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act except for normal and recognized executive-congressional communications.

(b) The limitation in subsection (a) shall not apply when there is significant medical evidence of a therapeutic advantage to the use of such drug or other substance or that federally sponsored clinical trials are being conducted to determine therapeutic advantage.”

The HHS bill further contains a lengthy section to change the names of various federal agencies and programs to swap out stigmatizing language for more neutral titles dealing with drugs and alcohol. For example, it proposes to change the “National Institute on Drug Abuse” to the “National Institute on Drugs and Addiction.”

(See the text of the relevant sections at the bottom of this story.)

Appropriators expressing interest in removing rhetorical stigmas around drug and alcohol use is a positive development from advocates’ perspective. But reform proponents have also made abundantly clear that the most significant driver of stigma is the ongoing criminalization of drugs in the criminal legal system, not the names of agencies.

In that frame of thinking, a bill such as one introduced last year by Reps. Cori Bush (D-MO) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) to federally decriminalize all currently illicit drugs would do far more accomplish the goal of destigmatization.

The House Appropriations Committee also released other spending bills and reports this week, with lawmakers pushing multiagency coordination to create guidance on hemp manufacturing, better guidance on the marketing of CBD, updates on research into medical marijuana for veterans and investigations into “alternative treatments” for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) such as psychedelics.

Those provisions came out of Fiscal Year 2023 spending legislation for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Related Agencies, as well as Military Construction, Veterans Affairs (VA), and Related Agencies.

Another base bill that came as a particular disappointment to advocates and reform-friendly lawmakers covered funding for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS).

Despite a concerted push from lawmakers, the base spending legislation did not include requested provisions to protect all states and tribal adult-use marijuana programs. Rather, it simply maintained a longstanding riders preventing the Justice Department from using its appropriated funds to intervene in the implementation of state-legal medical cannabis and hemp programs.

This means will again need to make their case for the broader protections’ inclusion as amendments—either in committee or on the House floor, as in past years.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who has championed the broader language in past appropriations cycles, told Marijuana Moment on Thursday that lawmakers are working “to see if there are opportunities with the committee or with floor action” to get the language included and enacted this time around.

“It should be not a heavy lift. It makes so much sense to have the federal government not interfere,” he said. “The principle has been embraced. It should be low hanging fruit.”

“Politically, this is something that—it’s not just Democrats, there are a number of Republicans that support this concept,” the congressman said. “Yeah, I’m disappointed. And that’s another thing we’re working on.”

In 2019 and 2020, the House attached the sweeping state and tribal protections to its version of the appropriations legislation as amendments adopted on the floor, but they’ve yet to be incorporated into any final package enacted into law. CJS legislation didn’t end up making it to the floor in 2021, but supporters had planned an amendment that year as well.

Recently released spending legislation for various agencies has also featured providing providing protections for immigrants who use cannabis, freeing up marijuana-related advertising and providing the industry with access to the banking system. There are also additional provisions concerning hemp.

Those are parts of Fiscal Year 2023 spending bills for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) and U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA).

For the Interior appropriations base bill that was released this week, there’s a section on tribal marijuana protections (with some new caveats that have raised questions about tribes potentially being held to a different standard than states).

In a related development, a Senate committee held a listening session on Friday that explored cannabis issues for Native Americans, touching on areas such as tribal sovereignty in the marijuana space, agreements with state governments and taxation.

A coalition of nine U.S. senators also sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland in March, urging him to direct federal prosecutors to not interfere with marijuana legalization policies enacted by Native American tribes.

The Labor, HHS and Education funding bill cleared subcommittee on Thursday, and the FSGG measure is scheduled to be marked up by the full House Appropriations Committee on Friday.

Importantly, it remains to be seen whether the Senate will accept any of the House-led cannabis and drug policy proposals. Senate appropriators have not yet released their spending bills for FY23, and typically wait until after the House has acted, so it’s not yet clear which issues will ultimately get reconciled by the two chambers and adopted into law.

Here’s the text of the HHS bill on revising drug-related names of federal agencies and programs:

“SEC. 242. (a) The Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 201 et seq.), the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.), the Comprehensive Smoking Education Act (15 U.S.C. 1331 et seq.), the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (Public Law 114–198), Public Law 92–255, as amended (21 U.S.C. 1101 et seq.), the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (34 U.S.C. 10101 et seq.), and title 5 of the United States Code are each amended (including in headings)—(1) by striking “National Institute on Drug Abuse” each place it appears and inserting “National Institute on Drugs and Addiction”; and (2) by striking”‘National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse” each place it appears and inserting “National Advisory Council on Drugs and Addiction”.
(b) Title IV of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 281 et seq.) is amended—
(1) in section 464H(b)(5), by striking “National Institute of Drug Abuse” and inserting “National Institute on Drugs and Addiction”;
(2) in sections 464L, 464M(a), 464O, and 494A, by striking “drug abuse” each place it appears and inserting “drug use”;
(3) in section 464L(a), by striking “treatment of drug abusers” and inserting “treatment of drug addiction”;
(4) in section 464M(a), by striking “prevention of such abuse” and inserting “prevention of such use”;
(5) in section 464N—
(A) in the section heading, by striking “‘DRUG ABUSE RESEARCH CENTERS” and inserting “DRUGS AND ADDICTION RESEARCH CENTERS”;
(B) in subsection (a)—
(i) in matter preceding paragraph (1), by striking “National Drug Abuse Research Centers” and inserting “National Drugs and Addiction Research Centers”; and
(ii) in paragraph (1)(C), by striking “treatment of drug abuse” and inserting “treatment of drug addiction”; and
(C) in subsection (c)—
(i) in the subsection heading, by striking “DRUG ABUSE AND ADDICTION RESEARCH” and inserting “DRUGS AND ADDICTION RESEARCH CENTERS”;
(ii) in paragraph (1), by striking “National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network and inserting “National Drug Addiction Treatment Clinical Trials Network”; and
(iii) in paragraph (2)(H), by striking “reasons that individuals abuse drugs, or refrain from abusing drugs” and inserting “reasons that individuals use drugs or refrain from using drugs”; and
(6) in section 464P—
(A) in subsection (a)—
10 (i) in paragraph (1), by striking “drug abuse treatments” and inserting “drug addiction treatments”; and
(ii) in paragraph (6), by striking “treatment of drug abuse” and inserting “treatment of drug addiction”; and
(B) in subsection (d)—
(i) by striking “disease of drug abuse” and inserting “disease of drug addiction”;
(ii) by striking “abused drugs” each place it appears and inserting “addictive drugs”; and
(iii) by striking “drugs of abuse” and inserting “drugs of addiction”.
(c) Section 464N of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 285o–2), as amended by subsection (b)(5), is further amended by striking “drug abuse” each place it appears and inserting “drug use”.
(d) Any reference in any law, regulation, map, document, paper, or other record of the United States to the National Institute on Drug Abuse shall be considered to be a reference to the National Institute on Drugs and Addiction.

SEC. 244. (a) The Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 201 et seq.) is amended (including in headings)—
(1) by striking “Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration” each place it appears and inserting “Substance Use And Mental Health Services Administration”;
(2) by striking “Center for Substance Abuse Treatment” each place it appears and inserting “Center for Substance Use Services”; and
(3) by striking “Center for Substance Abuse Prevention” each place it appears and inserting “Center for Substance Use Prevention Services”.
(b) Title V of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 290aa et seq.) is amended—
(1) in the title heading, by striking “SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES ADMINISTRATION” and inserting “SUBSTANCE USE AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES ADMINISTRATION”;
(2) in section 501— (A) in the section heading, by striking “SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES ADMINISTRATION” and inserting “SUBSTANCE USE AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES ADMINISTRATION”; and
(B) in subsection (a), by striking “(hereafter referred to in this title as the ‘Administration’)” and inserting “(hereafter referred to in this title as ‘SAMHSA’ or the ‘Administration’)”;
(3) in section 507, in the section heading, by striking “CENTER FOR SUBSTANCE ABUSE TREATMENT” and inserting “CENTER FOR SUBSTANCE USE SERVICES”;
(4) in section 513(a), in the subsection heading, by striking “CENTER FOR SUBSTANCE ABUSE TREATMENT” and inserting “CENTER FOR SUBSTANCE USE SERVICES”; and
(5) in section 515, in the section heading, by striking “CENTER FOR SUBSTANCE ABUSE PREVENTION” and inserting “CENTER FOR SUBSTANCE USE PREVENTION SERVICES”.
(c) Section 1932(b)(3) of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 300x–32(b)(3)) is amended in the paragraph heading by striking “CENTER FOR SUBSTANCE ABUSE PREVENTION” and inserting “CENTER FOR SUBSTANCE USE PREVENTION SERVICES”.
(d) Section 1935(b)(2) of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 300x–35(b)(2)) is amended in the paragraph heading by striking “CENTER FOR SUBSTANCE ABUSE PREVENTION” and inserting “CENTER FOR SUBSTANCE USE PREVENTION SERVICES”.
(e) Subtitle C of title IV of Public Law 99–570, as amended (25 U.S.C. 2401 et seq.) is amended (including in headings) by striking “Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration” each place it appears and inserting “Substance Use And Mental Health Services Administration”.
(f) The Social Security Act is amended in sections 1861, 1866F, and 1945 (42 U.S.C. 1395x, 1395cc–6, 1396w–4) by striking “Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration” each place it appears and inserting “Substance Use And Mental Health Services Administration”.
(g) Section 105(a)(7)(C)(i)(III) of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (42 U.S.C. 5106(a)(7)(C)(i)(III)) is amended by striking “Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration” and inserting “Substance Use And Mental Health Services Administration”.
(h)(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), any reference in any law, regulation, map, document, paper, or other record of the United States to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment of such Administration, or the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention of such Administration shall be considered to be a reference to the Substance Use And Mental Health Services Administration, the Center for Substance Use Services of such Administration, or the Center for Substance Use Prevention Services of such Administration, respectively.
(2) Paragraph (1) shall not be construed to alter or affect section 6001(d) of the 21st Century Cures Act (42 U.S.C. 290aa note), providing that a reference to the Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shall be construed to be a reference to the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use.”

Bipartisan Bill To Expand Medical Marijuana Access For Military Veterans Refiled In Congress

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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