A GOP congressman is seeking to prohibit the Department of Defense (DOD) from using its funds to test people for marijuana when they are enlisting in the military or being commissioned as an officer of one of the armed services.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) filed an amendment to enact the reform through appropriations legislation covering DOD—one of the latest examples of how lawmakers are aiming to use spending bills to advance cannabis policy changes this session.
“None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to require an individual to submit to a test for cannabis as a condition of enlistment of such individual as a member, or the commission of such individual as an officer, of an Armed Force,” the text of the measure says.
A separate amendment to the DOD appropriations bill that’s being sponsored by Reps. Robert Garcia (D-CA) and Daniel Goldman (D-NY) would prevent the use of funding to test most federal job applicants at DOD for marijuana.
Now it will be up to the House Rules Committee to decide whether or not to make the measures in order for floor consideration. The GOP-controlled panel has blocked numerous other bipartisan drug policy reform amendments to other appropriations legislation this session, though it has allowed certain key marijuana and psychedelics proposals to advance.
Garcia has worked multiple angles to try and get his cannabis drug testing proposal through, filing similar versions of the amendment to spending bills for Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies (MilCon/VA) and Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies.
The MilCon/VA amendment was not allowed to advance to the floor, though bipartisan lawmakers have cheered the House’s passage of the underlying legislation that included separate marijuana and psychedelics measures. Garcia’s amendment to the agriculture bill hasn’t been considered by the Rules Committee yet.
While the three versions of Gacria’s amendment share the same overall goal to reform federal agencies’ drug testing policies for cannabis, there are certain differences in the text. For example, they use different names for federal drug laws and also deviate when it comes to the list of states that would be covered under the reform, with one excluding Ohio and Pennsylvania for reasons that aren’t clear.
The Rules Committee hasn’t yet scheduled meetings to consider the DOD and agriculture appropriations bills in question, but it will likely meet sometime shortly after lawmakers return from the August recess on September 12.
Meanwhile, one of the House-passed MilCon/VA spending legislation amendments, which Gaetz also cosponsored, would bar VA from enforcing a policy that prevents its doctors from issuing medical cannabis recommendations to veterans living in legal states. The Senate Appropriations Committee adopted a similar measure to its version of the spending bill, increasing the changes of the reform making it into the final package to be signed into law.
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A report attached to the spending legislation by the House Appropriations Committee also 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 last month 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 last month. That includes a measure introduced by Garcia that would have prevented security clearance denials for federal workers over prior cannabis use.
House and Senate appropriators have also approved large-scale annual spending bills that once again include language to protect state medical cannabis programs, as well as a controversial rider to block Washington, D.C. from implementing a system of regulated marijuana sales.
Photo courtesy of Martin Alonso.