The U.S. House of Representatives had the opportunity to advance a bill containing provisions to allow veterans access to medical cannabis to the floor for a vote. The bill ultimately failed in committee, meaning it will not get a full vote in the House. Before you react in frustration, the committee’s decision was ultimately a good thing.
When it comes to politics, it is often difficult to see the forest for the trees. In other words, we tend to zero-in on just one or two provisions of a given piece of legislation without viewing them in the context of the entire bill. And when we do that, we allow bad things to happen.
If you are not sure why the House Rules Committee’s rejection of the recent bill is a good thing, hold on. This post will explain it.
Not a Cannabis Bill
If you forget everything else you read in this post, remember one thing: the bill in question was not a cannabis bill. It was a standard spending bill. The thing about spending bills is that they are not subject to filibuster in the Senate. They get a straight up or down vote in both chambers of Congress.
Unfortunately, lawmakers have a bad habit of attaching amendments to spending bills when they fear that those amendments would not survive the Senate on their own. Such was the amendment to expand medical cannabis access to veterans.
The amendment had nothing to do with congressional spending. It had nothing to do with the annual budget. It had nothing to do with financial appropriations. Therefore, adding it to a spending bill in order to avoid difficulty in the Senate amounts to procedural shenanigans.
What Goes Around Comes Around
You may be of the mind that you do whatever you have to do, politically speaking, to achieve the desired result. You might believe that attaching a cannabis amendment to a spending bill is a good idea. But consider what might happen five years from now.
Let us say the Rules Committee passed the bill and sent it to the floor for a full vote. Let’s say it passed on the floor and then went on to passage in the Senate and the president’s desk for his signature. By the end of the year, veterans could have access to medical cannabis.
But five years from now, a more conservative Congress could not only use the same amendment process to undo the change with relative ease, but they could also shut down the cannabis industry nationwide. In the simplest possible terms, what goes around comes around.
A Right Way to Do Things
There are right ways to do things – even in politics. That is why certain states take a slow and purposeful approach to cannabis. Utah is one of them. The Beehive State is one of the most conservative in terms of its medical cannabis program, according to the good folks behind the medical cannabis dispensary Beehive Farmacy.
Utah lawmakers tend to be very purposeful in what they do. Since medical cannabis was approved in the state some years ago, they have taken a very thoughtful approach with every legislative session. Gradually, their program is getting better. Moving slowly and thinking carefully has prevented things from getting out of control.
It would have been nice to give veterans access to medical cannabis through federal legislation. But the way to do it is not through an amendment attached to a spending bill. Ramming new laws through by attaching them to spending bills only invites more of the same. Eventually, the practice comes back to bite us all.