Andrew Hart

House Rules Committee Blocks Opioid Crisis Amendments

On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Rules once again blocked two amendments crafted to fight the opioid crisis from being brought to the floor for a vote, Marijuana Moment‘s Tom Angell reports. The two amendments — one pushing the VA to research medical cannabis and one preventing the federal government from blocking access to pain-relieving Kratom — were introduced by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colorado).

Polis announced his amendments in a press release.

“The opioid epidemic has affected so many in the U.S., if not directly, indirectly through friends and family. Along with improving access to mental health services, drug abuse treatment, and prevention programs, we need to improve access to alternative pain relief options that work. For some, kratom, a cousin of the coffee plant, can be such an alternative. For others, including many veterans, medical marijuana can help manage pain without resorting to more dangerous and addictive prescription opioids. Kratom and medical marijuana should be legal and available to our veterans.” — Rep. Jared Polis, in a statement

Polis took to the floor on Wednesday to scold the Committee on its continued blocking of cannabis legislation from consideration on the House floor.

“This bill is being considered under a closed rule. This is the 86th closed rule of this Congress. What that means, Mr. Chairman, not a single member, Democrat or Republican was able to offer an amendment to this bill and there were good ideas on both sides that weren’t allowed to be advanced. The Republicans continue to bring bills to the floor this way to limit the opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to do something to stop opioid abuse. As a legislator who has a lot of ideas to save lives, increase freedom and decrease opioid abuse, that would pass. I think a lot of my ideas would get 350 votes here in the House. We are not allowed to bring them forward. It is just so frustrating when we all know the human face of people that are suffering from being caught in a vicious cycle of opioid addiction and we have seen in our friends and family.” — Rep. Jared Polis, speaking on the House floor

The House Committee on Rules has made a practice of blocking all cannabis amendments. Chairman of the committee Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) has been the culprit behind this strategy. Despite sharing names and similar beliefs about cannabis, Rep. Sessions bears no relation to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Congressman Sessions’ strategy was designed in a Republican Conference meeting in June 2016 after a bill meant to protect LGBT government contractors was struck down by a minority of representatives, despite having enough support to pass. The move to block the pro-LGBT amendment caused chaos in the House and Republican leaders decided a strategy to prevent open consideration on amendments was in order, using the Rules Committee. This power has been used by Rep. Sessions to pursue his anti-cannabis agenda. No cannabis amendments have made it to the House floor since 2016.

However, Rep. Sessions’ strategy may soon backfire. The 2018 midterm elections are approaching and polling shows that 83% of Texas voters favor legalizing medical cannabis. Opponents are expected to use Congressman Sessions’ overzealous anti-cannabis stance against him.

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