On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Appropriations unveiled its fiscal year 2021 spending bills, which included several cannabis and hemp provisions. (Hemp is defined as cannabis plants with .3% THC or less.)
While some language was similar to what was included in House spending legislation, which the House voted to pass in July, there were some noteworthy differences.
One difference is that the House included banking language that read, “None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to penalize a financial institution solely because the institution provides financial services to an entity that” is involved in the legal hemp or cannabis industries. (The House passed the SAFE Banking Act, which, as Cannabis Wire reported, has stalled in the Senate for nearly a year.)
Another difference: One of the House budget bills, according to its summary, also “eliminates a ban on the use of local funds to legalize marijuana,” in reference to D.C., where efforts to establish a system for regulated sales have been hindered years after voters legalized cannabis for adult use.
The Senate included language that maintains this ban. One budget bill reads: “No funds available for obligation or expenditure by the District of Columbia government under any authority may be used to enact any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et 4 seq.) or any tetrahydrocannabinols derivative for recreational purposes.”
And finally, the Senate focused extensively on hemp, which is of little surprise considering Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is perhaps the most outspoken proponent of hemp in Congress. One section in particular focuses on the very issues with the United States Department of Agriculture’s interim final rule on hemp cultivation that hemp industry stakeholders have flagged for months.
“The Committee is concerned that the interim final rule … creates roadblocks for farmers by requiring an unrealistic timeframe for testing, the use of Drug Enforcement Administration registered laboratories, the conversion of THCA into THC, a sampling of only flowering tops, and an arbitrary negligence threshold of 0.5 percent,” the section reads. “The Committee directs USDA to propose amendments to the interim final rule to ensure that any final rule is based on science and will ensure a fair and reasonable regulatory framework for commercial hemp production in the United States. In addition, the Committee encourages the Secretary to utilize current Agricultural Research Service research to revise the hemp sampling and testing protocols.”
Already, hemp advocates secured one win with regard to the interim final rule when President Donald Trump signed short-term legislation that keeps the government funded until December 11. (The FY 2021 budget is already overdue.) As Cannabis Wire reported, that legislation extended USDA hemp pilot programs, which were expected to transition to the new rule in October, through September 2021, giving stakeholders time, they hope, to reshape the rule.
Here is a breakdown of the cannabis and hemp language in the Senate spending bills:
Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies:
The explanatory statement includes language on “cannabis and cannabis derivatives.” Specifically, it allocates $5 million for the FDA to regulate CBD, encourages additional research on CBD, and notes: “Within 90 days of enactment of this Act, the FDA shall issue a policy of enforcement discretion with regard to certain products containing CBD meeting the definition of hemp … . Such enforcement discretion shall be in effect until the FDA establishes a process for stakeholders to notify the FDA of use of CBD in products that include safety studies for intended use per product and makes a determination about such product.” (The FDA is already well on its way to unveiling such an enforcement policy, which Cannabis Wire has been closely covering.)
The statement also includes five sections on hemp, in addition to the aforementioned language about the interim final rule.
One on “hemp cultivation sustainability” urges study on “impacts of energy and water in hemp cultivation and controlled environment agriculture and to make recommendations on best practices and standards in both sectors.”
Another section notes the “eligibility of researchers participating in hemp pilot programs … to compete for Federal funds” and urges efforts to “inform stakeholders of this eligibility and to support hemp research.”
Yet another calls for a “hemp germplasm repository at the Plant Genetics Resources Research Unit” and encourages the Unit “to partner with institutions that have existing institutional capacity on hemp germplasm research, education, and extension capabilities.”
Another calls for research and development “to improve agronomic and agro-economic understanding of effectively integrating hemp into existing agricultural cropping, processing, and marketing systems.”
And, along these lines, a section on “hemp-based products” calls for efforts “to provide access to guaranteed loans for hemp producers and businesses.”
The bill itself also includes language that notes: “None of the funds made available by this Act or any other Act may be used … in contravention of [hemp provisions of the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills]” or “to prohibit the transportation, processing, sale, or use of hemp, or seeds of such plant, that is grown or cultivated in accordance with” these hemp provisions “within or outside the State in which the hemp is grown or cultivated.”
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies:
The explanatory statement includes language on “hemp testing technology.” They write: “The Committee is aware that DEA has developed field testing kits that can distinguish between hemp and marijuana on-the-spot. The Committee directs the DEA to continue to work to ensure State and local law enforcement have access to this field test technology so they can more efficiently conduct their drug interdiction efforts at the local level.”
The bill includes language that notes: “None of the funds made available under this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to” jurisdictions that have legalized medical cannabis “to prevent any of them from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”
And it includes similar language related to hemp, noting that no funds “may be used in contravention” of legal hemp programs “by the Department of Justice or the Drug Enforcement Administration.”
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies:
The explanatory statement includes brief language on “resource protection and maintenance,” which is not cannabis-specific, but the language specifies that the “Bureau is expected to prioritize marijuana eradication programs.”
Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies:
The explanatory statement includes language on “barriers to research,” “flavored THC,” and “cannabis research.”
Specifically, on barriers, it notes: “The Committee is concerned that restrictions associated with Schedule I of the Controlled Substance Act (Public Law 91–513) effectively limit the amount and type of research that can be conducted on certain Schedule I drugs, especially opioids, marijuana or its component chemicals, and new synthetic drugs and analogs. At a time when as much information as possible is needed about these drugs to find antidotes for their harmful effects, as well as regulatory and other barriers to conducting this research should be addressed.”
On flavored THC, it notes: “The Committee recommends the inclusion of questions on consumption of flavored marijuana vapes and marijuana edibles flavored to appeal to adolescents in the annual [NIDA-funded Monitoring the Future] survey.”
And on research, it notes: “The Committee believes that cannabidiol [CBD] and cannabigerol [CBG], compounds found in cannabis, may provide beneficial medicinal effects. … The Committee encourages NIH to consider additional investment in studying the medicinal effects and toxicology of CBD and CBG including clinical trials.”