The 116th Congress achieved a landmark milestone when the House Financial Services Committee approved the SAFE Banking Act of 2019, which would shield financial institutions from federal charges should they offer services to state-legal cannabis businesses. The bill passed out of committee in a 45-15 vote that included an “aye” vote from Representative Trey Hollingsworth, who represents Indiana’s 9th Congressional District. Now, the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health is planning on hearing testimony on three cannabis bills: the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act (H.R. 712), the Veterans Equal Access Act (H.R. 1647), and the Veterans Cannabis Use for Safe Healing Act (H.R. 2191).
While no one from Indiana’s Congressional delegation is a member of the subcommittee that will be holding the hearing on this topic, Representative Jim Banks (3rd Congressional district) serves on the House Veterans Affairs Committee. This means that if the committee holds a markup on any of the bills considered during the subcommittee hearing, Representative Banks will have the opportunity to offer testimony, amendments, and vote on whether or not to move the bill to the House floor.
Representative Banks has generally been considered an opponent of cannabis reform. “I do not believe in the legalization of narcotics,” he writes in the form letter he sends constituents on the topic of cannabis reform, although he also surprised the cannabis advocacy community recently when he added his name as a cosponsor on the SAFE Banking Act (H.R. 1595) on April 12th, the first member of Indiana’s Congressional delegation to cosponsor any cannabis-related bill since the new Congress started.
While none of the bills that the Veterans Affairs committee plans to hear address the core issue of federal cannabis prohibition, they do seek to address a number of inconsistencies and issues resulting from the federal prohibition of cannabis. Here are brief summaries of two of the more well-supported bills being considered provided by NORML (click the bill titles for more detailed info):
Representatives Lou Correa (D-CA) and Clay Higgins (R-LA) and Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) have introduced legislation, HR 712 / S. 179: The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2019 to facilitate federally-sponsored clinical research into the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis among veterans.
Presently, V.A. doctors are forbidden from providing the paperwork necessary to complete a recommendation, thus forcing military veterans to seek the advice of a private, out-of-network physician. Passage of either of these bills would lift this prohibition.
Those living in Indiana’s 3rd Congressional District wishing to reach out to the office of Representative Jim Banks can write to him using his constituent contact form or can contact any of his offices using the information below.
Fort Wayne Office
1300 S Harrison St
Fort Wayne, IN 46802
Phone: (260) 702-4750
Washington, DC Office
1713 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-4436