Key House Committee Will Consider Ending Marijuana Testing For Federal Job Applicants And Lifting D.C. Cannabis Sales Ban

Key House Committee Will Consider Ending Marijuana Testing For Federal Job Applicants And Lifting D.C. Cannabis Sales Ban

A key House committee will soon consider newly filed amendments to a large-scale spending bill that would prevent drug testing of certain federal job applicants for marijuana and end the blockade that has kept Washington, D.C. from legalizing cannabis sales.

Democratic lawmakers recently filed the amendments to Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations legislation covering Financial Services and General Government (FSGG). They will be taken up by the GOP-controlled House Rules Committee, which has rejected numerous drug policy reform measures from floor consideration as part of spending bills in recent months while allowing a small handful of others to advance.

One of the FSGG amendments comes from Rep. Robert Garcia (D-CA), who has consistently sought to use the appropriations process this year to secure marijuana-related employment protections for federal workers. Despite his repeated attempts, however, the committee has declined to make any version in order for a floor vote so far.

Earlier this month, for example, Garcia tried with success to put the reform in spending legislation dealing with the Departments of Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies.

Garcia has also filed the cannabis job applicant protections measure for other appropriations bills—covering Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, as well as Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies—that will be taken up by the Rules Committee on Wednesday.

Previously, the congressman introduced similar versions of the amendment—all of which have been blocked—for the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS); Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration (Ag-FDA); State and Foreign Operations and Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies (MilCon/VA).

Meanwhile, Reps. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) filed an amendment to the FSGG bill that wold remove a longstanding rider that prevents D.C. from using its local tax dollars to implement a commercial marijuana market—despite voters in the District approving legalization at the ballot in 2014.

To the disappointment of advocates, the rider was kept in both the Republican majority House and Democratic majority Senate base bills that moved through each chamber’s respective Appropriations Committee over the summer. President Joe Biden’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget request that he released in March also maintained the D.C. rider for the third year in a row.

“The anti-democratic interference in D.C.’s purely local affairs flies directly in the face of the Republican principle of local control, and I am making sure no member of Congress gets a free pass on abusing congressional authority over the District,” Norton said in a press release.

The Rules Committee has not yet scheduled a meeting on the FSGG bill.

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Meanwhile, for the MilCon/VA spending legislation, bipartisan lawmakers have cheered the House’s passage of the underlying legislation that included separate marijuana and psychedelics measures that were allowed to advance to floor consideration.

One of those House-passed amendments would allow VA doctors to issue medical cannabis recommendations to veterans, and the other would encourage research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA.

The Senate Appropriations Committee also adopted a measure to its version of the MilCon/VA legislation that would similarly free up VA doctors to issue medical marijuana recommendations, increasing the chances of the reform making it into the final package to be signed into law.

A pair of psychedelics research measures, as well as an amendment on creating federal labeling requirements related to marijuana interactions with prescription drugs, were also approved by the House last month as part of a Department of Defense (DOD) spending bill.

A report attached to the spending legislation by the House Appropriations Committee separately includes a section noting that “VA has clarified that nothing in VA statutes or regulations specifically prohibits a veteran whose income is derived from state-legalized cannabis activities from obtaining a certificate of eligibility for VA home loan benefits.”

Over in the Senate, lawmakers passed defense legislation in July that contains provisions to bar intelligence agencies like the CIA and NSA from denying security clearances to applicants solely due to their past marijuana use. But other cannabis proposals, such as one from Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) to allowed medical marijuana use by veterans, did not advance as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

More than a dozen marijuana and psychedelics amendments to the House version of the NDAA were blocked by the Rules Committee in July. That includes a measure introduced by Garcia that would have prevented security clearance denials for federal workers over prior cannabis use.

However, last month the House Oversight and Accountability Committee passed a standalone bipartisan bill that would prevent the denial of federal employment or security clearances based on a candidate’s past marijuana use.

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Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

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