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  • Major GOP Senator Introduces Marijuana Reform For Vets In Spending Package

    A major Republican figure in the Senate has forwarded significant marijuana reform proposals in three separate spending bills.

    Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran included a section to block the Department of Justice from using any funds to interfere with states that decide to legalize medical marijuana. While this spending block is currently on the books, the point of the section is to renew the prohibition, so that the DOJ doesn’t begin enforcement. How necessary this is in practice is unclear. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is no fan of marijuana legalization, but has previously said that she will leave the matter to the states. (RELATED: Loretta Lynch Not A Fan Of Marijuana, Will Still Let States Decide For Themselves)

    Another provision also currently law — but set to expire unless renewed — keeps the DOJ and Drug Enforcement Administration from cracking down on industrial hemp research programs on the state level. Congress authorized those programs last year.

    What’s new, however, is an attempt to allow physicians at the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana to veterans. It also prevents the VA from retaliation: that is, denying services to veterans who choose to take part in medical marijuana programs, or otherwise prohibiting them from those programs in any other way. This measure has previously been proposed but never enacted. Veterans’ advocates and members of Congress, including GOP Sen. Rand Paul, as well as Democratic Sens. Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand, consider marijuana to be a viable alternative to the over-reliance on opioids at the VA. (RELATED: Senators Unveil Bill To Legalize Federal Medical Marijuana)

    Finally, Cochran also included a measure to block the Treasury Department from punishing financial institutions that decide to engage in business with marijuana companies in states where the drug is legal. This applies for both recreational and medical marijuana providers.

    “We won bipartisan votes on all of these issues this year on either the House floor, in the Senate Appropriations Committee, or both; so this is a rare case of congressional leadership actually listening to their members — and to the American people,” Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

    “Just a few short years ago, politicians used to jump all over each other to be seen as the ‘toughest’ on drugs. But now that polls consistently show that a growing majority of Americans support legalization, more elected officials are beginning to realize that scaling back failed prohibition policies is not only the right thing to do, but that it’s politically smart.”

    Cochran is currently in negotiations with the House Appropriations Committee to square the different spending packages. Government funding runs out on Dec. 11.

    Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

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    Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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