WASHINGTON DC— Press Release — For the first time ever, Senators have included protections for state medical cannabis laws in their base Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill.
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies approved the spending legislation Tuesday, including a provision that would block the Justice Department from using funds to interfere in state medical cannabis laws. The overall bill is expected to receive a full committee vote Thursday.
Such a provision has been in effect since 2014, but this is the first time it has been included in the Senate's base CJS Appropriations bill. The House added a similar provision to its base CJS Appropriations bill in committee last month. The House version of the measure, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment (and subsequently the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment) was added to the bill as a floor amendment in previous years. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) was the most recent sponsor of the amendment in the Senate.
"The inclusion of this provision in the base bill symbolizes just how far this issue has come," said Don Murphy, director of conservative outreach for the Marijuana Policy Project. "We have reached the point where even in a Republican-controlled Senate, a medical cannabis provision is not considered a poison pill and its support requires no further debate. Protecting state medical cannabis laws against federal interference is now viewed as commonsense rather than controversial.
"We did not reach this milestone easily. For years, patients, their families, and advocates have been fighting for compassionate medical cannabis laws at the state and federal levels. We now have at least some form of medical cannabis law in nearly every state in the nation, and polls show nearly universal support for allowing the medical use of cannabis. We commend Senate leaders for taking a proactive approach and including this important provision in the base CJS spending bill."
Additional Key Points and Highlights included in the Bill:
Opioid Crisis. This bill provides a total of $482.5 million to help combat heroin, fentanyl, and the illegal distribution and use of opioids. The bill rejects the Administration’s plan to eliminate the anti-heroin task force program within the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office, instead providing $32 million, the same amount as the fiscal year 2018 level. The largest part of this funding is $360 million for Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) grants, an increase of $30 million above the fiscal year 2017 funding level. Communities cannot solely enforce their way out of this epidemic, so the bill strongly supports comprehensive prevention and treatment programs within DOJ as well as dedicated funding for programs to help youth impacted by the opioid crisis. In addition, the bill contains $1 million for the State Justice Institute to assist state courts in handling cases of children and families impacted by opioids.
Law Enforcement. Federal law enforcement agencies within the DOJ including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Marshals Service, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and Bureau of Prisons are funded at a total of $21.2 billion, $275 million more than fiscal year 2018 and $526 million more than the President’s request. The Byrne-JAG program is funded at $445.5 million, an increase of $29.5 million more than the FY 2018 level and $43 million more than the President’s request. COPS Hiring is funded at $235 million which will place approximately 1,000 more police officers on the streets of our communities, an increase of $9.5 million more than the FY 2018 level and $136 million more than the President’s request. The bill rejects the proposal included in the President’s request to move High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area grants from the Office of National Drug Control Policy to the DEA.
Addressing Violence Against Women. The bill contains $497.5 million, the highest funding level ever, for grants provided by the Office on Violence Against Women. Funding is provided for multiple competitive and formula grant programs that support training for police officers and prosecutors, state domestic violence and sexual assault coalitions, rape prevention programs, lethality assessment and homicide reduction initiatives, domestic violence hotlines, and women’s shelters and transitional housing support services. The bill again provides $50 million to support the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative which supports multi-disciplinary community response teams tasked with developing and implementing comprehensive reform regarding sexual assault, including reducing the backlog of rape kits at law enforcement agencies.
Census Bureau. The bill provides $3.8 billion for the Census Bureau, an increase of $1 billion above the fiscal year 2018 enacted amount and $21 million above the fiscal year 2019 President’s Request. Fiscal year 2019 is a critical year for the 2020 Census, as field operations startup and partnerships and local relationships are built to get the word out in order to ensure an accurate count and maximize self-response. These efforts are particularly important as the administration added a controversial and untested citizenship question. The amount provided in the bill, along with nearly $1 billion provided in fiscal year 2018 that is expected to remain available in 2019, is intended to keep the 2020 Census on track and to increase community outreach and communication efforts.
NOAA Research and Grants. The bill rejects the administration’s request to cut funding for climate, weather, and oceans research by 41 percent, and instead funds the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) research at $508 million. Additionally, the bill again rejects the proposal to eliminate successful NOAA programs like Sea Grant, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS), Coastal Zone Management (CZM) grants, and the National Ocean and Coastal Security Fund. The Sea Grant program is funded at $71 million, $6 million above the fiscal year 2018 level, which yields more than $600 million in economic activity and supports 7,000 jobs and 1,300 American businesses. NERRS is funded at $27.5 million, $2.5 million above the fiscal year 2018 level. CZM grants are funded at $80 million, $5 million above the fiscal year 2018 level, and the National Ocean and Coastal Security Fund is funded at the fiscal year 2018 level of $30 million. Our coasts and Great Lakes contribute about $350 billion to the economy annually and these State-Federal partnerships support sustainable economic development and environmental restoration.
Weather Satellites. This bill provides $928 million to continue construction of NOAA’s three new Polar Weather Satellites, an increase of $50 million above the request. Polar satellites provide 85 percent of the data used to forecast the weather, and are a vital component of Americans’ personal, property, and economic security. One-third of U.S. GDP is affected by climate and weather, including farmers trying to protect livestock and crops, cities relying on energy from wind turbines and solar panels, and air travelers trying to get home safely and on time. Last year, the United States experienced 16 separate weather and climate disasters that cost more than $1 billion dollars each, tying the single year record. These storms would have cost far more and posed even greater threats to human safety without sufficient warning. The bill also provides $408 billion for NOAA’s GOES weather satellites.
NOAA Ships. The bill provides $75 million to complete a second NOAA survey vessel. NOAA currently has 16 ships in its aging fleet, but that number will dwindle to 8 vessels by 2028. The Committee has recently funded one additional vessel, but to maintain its current oceanographic capacity, NOAA needs to build not one but eight additional vessels in the next several years, as construction takes eight to ten years per ship. These vessels enable NOAA to map the ocean floor, support weather forecasts, conduct oceanographic and climate research, and improve ecosystem and fisheries management.
Economic Development Administration. The bill again rejects the administration’s request to eliminate the Economic Development Administration (EDA) and instead provides $305.5 million for EDA, including $117.5 million for Public Works grants, $37 million for Economic Adjustment Assistance grants, and $25 million for the Regional Innovation Program. EDA awards infrastructure and planning grants to all 50 states. The fiscal year 2019 funding level will leverage an additional $4 billion in local and private investment and support nearly 20,000 American jobs.
National Institute of Standards and Technology. The bill provides a total of $1.04 billion for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a cut of $161 million below the fiscal year 2018 level and $408 million above the request. Funding for NIST measurement labs and research remains at $724 million, the same as the fiscal year 2018 level. The bill also provides $15 million for the National Network of Manufacturing Institutes (Manufacturing USA), and rejects the administration’s proposal to terminate the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program, instead funding the program at $140 million. For every one dollar of federal investment, MEP generates $17.9 in new sales growth for manufacturers and $27.0 in new investment. This translates into $2.3 billion in new sales annually. The decreased funding to NIST is within the facilities budget, since the fiscal year 2018 omnibus provided full funding for the renovation of the Radiation Physics Building in Gaithersburg.
NASA. This bill provides $21.3 billion for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which is $587 million above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level. The bill supports a space program balanced among aeronautics, science, technology development, and human space flight. NASA Science is funded at $6.4 billion which is $179 million more than the fiscal year 2018 level. The bill continues funding for the Wide-Field InfraRed Survey Telescope ($352 million), Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, and Ocean Ecosystem ($161 million), Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory-Pathfinder ($18 million), Deep Space Climate Observatory ($1.7 million), Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 ($5.1 million), and Carbon Monitoring System ($10 million).
Aeronautics is supported at $725 million, an increase of $40 million above the fiscal year 2018 level, to ensure continued U.S. leadership in aviation. For human space flight, the bill contains full support for commercial cargo and crew to support the International Space Station and for new vehicles that will take humans beyond low Earth orbit, the Space Launch System ($2.15 billion) and Orion ($1.35 billion). The bill contains full funding for Exploration Ground Systems ($540 million) plus $255 million to complete a second mobile launch platform and associated upper stage. Building on 30 years of NASA expertise in repairing satellites in space, the bill includes $180 million for the Restore-L satellite servicing mission. The proposal to cancel key NASA Education programs is rejected, and these programs continue to be funded in the bill – Space Grant ($44 million), the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Technology ($21 million), and the Minority University Research and Education Project ($33 million). The Education program is renamed “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Opportunities.”
National Science Foundation. The National Science Foundation (NSF) is funded at $8.1 billion, $301 million above the fiscal year 2018 level. This funding includes $6.56 billion for NSF’s research and research facilities, an increase of $222 million above the fiscal year 2018 level and $405 million more than the President’s request. NSF’s education and training programs to build tomorrow’s innovation workforce are funded at $915 million, an increase of $13 million above the fiscal year 2018 level. This funding level will support approximately 715 additional research and education grants and 8,300 more scientists, technicians, teachers, and students, compared fiscal year 2018.
Legal Services Corporation (LSC). The bill provides $410 million for LSC which is the same as fiscal year 2018, rejecting the Administration’s request to eliminate LSC. LSC is the largest funder of civil legal aid in the country, and its grantees served nearly 1.8 million people in 2016, helping them with family law, domestic violence, housing, fraud, and other legal problems.
Marine Mammal Commission (MMC). Funded at $4.2 million, a nearly $800,000 or 22 percent increase above fiscal year 2018 and the first increase in three years. The bill rejects the elimination of MMC, an independent government agency chartered under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to provide science-based oversight of actions affecting marine mammals.