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NIDA

Congressional Affairs, May 2016

Prepared April 26, 2016 

Hearings, Briefings, Meetings

Capitol Hill Activity has continued briskly in FY 2017. In addition to a constant stream of information requests and discussions with NIDA constituent group representatives, specific events included:

Hearings

  • NIH House appropriations hearing – NIDA Director Dr. Volkow accompanied NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins to the NIH House appropriations hearing and answered several questions focused primarily on opioids and marijuana.
  • NIH Senate Appropriations hearings – NIDA Director Dr. Volkow accompanied NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins to two Senate appropriations hearings and answered several questions focused primarily on opioids and marijuana.
  • Senate Judiciary Committee hearing – NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee at a hearing titled "Attacking America's Epidemic of Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse."

Briefings

  • NIDA Deputy Director Wilson Compton provided a briefing on opioids research issues to Senate Finance Committee staff.
  • Congressional visits to NIH –
    • NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow was one of four NIH Institute directors whose participation was requested by the House Doctors Caucus. The discussion was broad and as expected focused for Dr. Volkow on opioids and marijuana issues.
    • NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow was one of three NIH Institute directors whose participation was requested by a congressional delegation that visited campus. She discussed primarily opioids and marijuana issues with the delegation.
  • NIDA Deputy Director Dr. Wilson Compton participated in a briefing focused on the effectiveness of treatments for heroin addiction. The event was hosted by the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic.
  • NIDA staff attended a film screening and discussion of Heroin: Cape Cod USA. The event was sponsored by Senator Edward Markey (D-MA), and included ONDCP Director Michael Botticelli and U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy.
  • NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow participated in a roundtable discussion focused on opioid prescribing practices. The event was hosted by the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic and the Addiction Treatment and Recovery Caucus.
  • NIDA Deputy Director Wilson Compton participated in a briefing focused on opioids and Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. The event was hosted by the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic and the Addiction Treatment and Recovery Caucus.
  • NIDA Deputy Director Dr. Wilson Compton participated in a briefing focused on Hepatitis C and its impact on Women. The event was organized by Women’s Policy, Inc., and hosted by the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues.
  • NIDA Deputy Director Dr. Wilson Compton participated in a briefing focused on fentanyl. The event was hosted by the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic.
  • NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow participated in a briefing focused on opioids, HIV and HCV. The briefing was organized by the Friends of NIDA and hosted by the Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus and the Congressional Prescription Drug Abuse Caucus.
  • NIDA Deputy Director Dr. Wilson Compton participated in a roundtable discussion focused on the public health response to Hepatitis C. The event was hosted on Capitol Hill by Johnson and Johnson Health Care Systems, and was moderated by Trust for America’s Health. U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) attended and participated. 

Meetings

  • Continuing discussions with Hill staff regarding H.R. 3537, focused on new psychoactive substances, scheduling issues, etc. This has been somewhat complicated by another bill (H.R. 4229) that also focuses on these substances, but from a prosecutorial/trafficking perspective only.
  • Technical assistance discussions with staff to Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) regarding youth treatment and prevention issues.
  • Technical assistance discussions with staff to Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) regarding marijuana research.
  • Technical assistance discussions with staff to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) regarding marijuana research.
  • Technical assistance discussions with staff to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) regarding marijuana research.
  • Technical assistance discussions with staff to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) regarding "spice" and
    K2."
  • Senator Shaheen staff – NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow met with staff to Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to discuss opioids and marijuana issues.
  • NIDA staff joined others from across HHS, DOJ and ONDCP in a meeting with staff from the House Energy and Commerce Committee to discuss draft legislation focused on new psychoactive substances. Efforts on this topic continue, as noted above.
  • NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow met with Rep. Diane Black to discuss marijuana and opioids issues.
  • Collaboration with HHS, FDA, SAMHSA, DOJ, DEA staffs to answer a very broad, detailed set of questions from several senators, led by Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
  • Rx/Heroin Summit – NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow attended and spoke at the summit again this year, along with several members of Congress. She met individually with House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY). This year President Obama also joined the event and led a town-hall style discussion.
  • Senator Mikulski visit to NIH – NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow attended  Marking her long history of support for NIH, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) made a visit to NIH prior to her retiring from Congress after the current session.
  • NIDA staff attended a Capitol Hill poster session/presentation focused on behavioral research that had come under some degree of criticism. The event was designed to highlight the legitimacy and importance of the research, and was hosted by the Coalition to Protect Research and the Coalition for National Science Funding. One NIDA grantee (HIV/AIDs and drug abuse focus) participated in the event. 

Legislation of Interest

The following information is provided to give readers a sense of the volume and intensity of interest in topics specifically germane to NIDA’s mission. Given the overall policy landscape, a focus on marijuana and opioids is provided here. 

Legislation Enacted 

The Protecting Our Infants Act (originally proposed as HR 1462, Katherine Clark (D-MA) et al and S. 799 (Mitch McConnell (R-KY)) was signed into law by the President on November 25, 2015. This law is designed to combat the rise of prenatal opioid abuse and neonatal abstinence syndrome. NIDA is playing a lead role in compiling the report required by this legislation. 

Opioids Focus 

The President proposed in his FY 2017 budget significant increased efforts to address opioid addiction and overdose. See https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/02/01/preventing-epidemic-opioid-abuse-and-heroin-use. This follows his announcement of 10/21/15 regarding an increased focus on the issue  https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/10/21/fact-sheet-obama-administration-announces-public-and-private-sector. He further pressed this issue with his appearance at the Rx/Heroin Summit. In Congress, the issue has garnered intense interest. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) – introduced as HR 953 and S 524  would authorize the Attorney General to award grants to address the national epidemics of prescription drug and heroin abuse. The bill passed overwhelmingly in the Senate and action is pending in the House. As of this writing, significant negotiations are under way to mark up and pass a broad opioids package that would include some or all of the CARA legislation as well as at least a dozen other previously introduced bills. A full summary will be provided once this process concludes. 

Marijuana Focus 

H.R. 262 – On January 9, 2015, Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced the States’ Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act, to amend the Controlled Substances Act to exempt real property from civil forfeiture due to medical marijuana-related conduct that is authorized by State law. The bill was referred to the Committees on Judiciary and Energy and Commerce. 

H.R. 525 and S. 134  On January 26, 2015, Representative Massie Thomas (R-KY) introduced the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015, to amend the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana, and for other purposes. The bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee and Energy and Commerce Committee. On January 8, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced the same bill in the Senate. It was referred to the Judiciary Committee.

H.R. 667 – On February 3, 2015, Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced the Veterans Equal Access act, to authorize the Department of Veterans Affairs health care providers to provide recommendations and opinions to veterans regarding participation in state medical marijuana programs. The bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce.

H.R. 1013 – On February 20, 2015, Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced the Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol Act, to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, to leave to the states the power to regulate marijuana in a similar way to the way they regulate alcohol, and for other purposes. The bill was referred to several committees: Judiciary, Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, Natural Resources.

H.R. 1014 – On February 20, 2015, Representative Earl Blumenauer introduced the Marijuana Tax Revenue act of 2015, to amend the IRS code of 1986 to provide for the taxation of marijuana. The bill was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means.

H.R. 1538 and S. 683 – On March 23, 2015, Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) introduced the CARERS Act, to extend the principle of federalism to State drug policy, provide access to medical marijuana, and enable research into the medicinal properties of marijuana. The bill was referred to the committees on Energy and Commerce, Judiciary, Veterans, and Financial Services. On March 10, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the same bill. It was referred to the Judiciary Committee.

H.R. 1635 and S. 1333 – On March 25, 2015, Representative Scott Perry (R-PA) introduced the Charlotte’s Web Medical Access Act of 2015, to amend the controlled substances act to exclude cannabidiol-rich plants from the definition of marijuana. The bill was referred to the committees on Energy and Commerce and Judiciary. On May 13, Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) introduced the same bill. The bill was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

H.R. 1774 – On April 14, 2015, Representative Morgan Griffith (R-VA) introduced the Compassionate Access Act, to provide for the rescheduling of marijuana, the medical use of marijuana in accordance with state law, and the exclusion of cannabidiol from the definition of marijuana. The bill was referred to the committees on Energy and Commerce and Judiciary. 

H.R. 1855 and S. 987 – On April 16, 2015, Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced the Small Business Tax Equity act, a bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow deductions and credits relating to expenditures in connection with marijuana sales conducted in compliance with State law. The bill was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means. On the same day, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced the same bill in the Senate. It was referred to the Committee on Finance.

H.R. 1940 – On April 22, 2015, Representative Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA) introduced the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015, to amend the Controlled Substances Act to provide for a new rule regarding the application of the Act to marihuana, and for other purposes. The bill was referred to the Committees on Energy and Commerce, Judiciary.

H.R. 2076 and S. 1726 – On April 28, 2015, Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) introduced the Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act of 2015, to create protections for depository institutions that provide financial services to marijuana-related businesses, and for other purposes. The bill was referred to the Committees on Financial Services and Judiciary. On July 9, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the same bill in the Senate. It was referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

H.R. 2331 – On May 14, 2015, Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) introduced the No Welfare for Weed Act of 2015, to amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to prohibit the use of benefits to purchase marijuana products, to amend Part A of Title IV of the Social Security Act to prohibit assistance provided under the program of block grants to states for temporary assistance for needy families from being accessed through the use of an electronic benefit transfer card at any store that offers marijuana for sale, and for other purposes. The bill was referred to the Committees on Ways and Means and Agriculture.

H.R. 2373 – On May 15, 2015, Representative Morgan Griffith (R-VA) introduced the Legitimate Use of Medicinal Marijuana Act, to provide for the legitimate use of medicinal marijuana in accordance with the laws of the various states. The bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce.

H.R. 2598 – On June 1, 2015, Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced the Lucid Act of 2015, to amend title 23 of the U.S. Code to establish requirements relating to marijuana-impaired driving, to direct the Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to issue comprehensive guidance on the best practices to prevent marijuana-impaired driving, and for other purposes. The bill was referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

H.R. 3010 – On July 9, 2015, Representative David Reichert (R-WA) introduced the Preserving Welfare for Needs not Weed Act, to prohibit assistance provided under the program of block grants to states for temporary assistance for needy families from being accessed through the use of an electronic benefit card at any store that offers marijuana for sale. The bill was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means. 

H.R. 3124 – On July 21, 2015, Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced the Clean Slate for Marijuana Offenses Act of 2015, to permit the expungement of records of certain marijuana-related offenses. The bill was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

H.R. 3518 – On September 16, 2015 Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) introduced the Stop Civil Asset Forfeiture Funding for Marijuana Suppression Act of 2015, to prohibit the use of amounts from the Asset Forfeiture Fund for the Domestic Cannabis Suppression/Eradication programs of the DEA, and for other purposes. The bill was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

H.R. 3561 – On September 18, 2015, Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced the Fair Access to Education Act of 2015, to amend the Higher Education Act to exclude certain marijuana-related offenses from the drug-related offenses that result in students being barred from receiving federal educational loans, grants, and work assistance. The bill was referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce.

H.R. 3629 – On September 28, 2015, Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO) introduced the Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act of 2015, to amend the Controlled Substances Act to provide that Federal law shall note preempt State law. The bill was referred to the Judiciary and Energy and Commerce Committees.

H.R. 3746 – On October 9, 2015, Representative Susan DelBene (D-WA) introduced the State Marijuana and Regulatory Tolerance Enforcement Act, to make the Controlled Substances Act inapplicable with respect to Marijuana in states that have legalized marijuana and have in effect a statewide regulatory regime to protect certain federal interests. The bill was referred to the Judiciary and Energy and Commerce Committees.

H.R. 4467 and S. 2504 – On February 4, 2016, Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) in the House and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) in the Senate introduced the Marijuana Advertising in Legal States Act of 2016, to amend the Controlled Substances Act to allow for advertising relating to certain activities in compliance with state law. The bill was referred to the Judiciary and Energy and Commerce Committees in the House, and the Judiciary Committee in the Senate.

H.R. 5014 – On April 20, 2016, Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI) introduced this bill to protect the legal production, purchase and possession of marijuana by Indian tribes. The bill was referred to the Committees on Natural Resources and Energy and Commerce.

S. 1984 – On August 5, 2015, Senator James Lankford (R-OK) introduced the Keeping Out Illegal Drugs Act of 2015, to prevent Indian tribes and tribal organizations that cultivate, manufacture, or distribute marijuana on Indian land from receiving federal funds. The bill was referred to the Committee on Indian Affairs. 

S. 2237 – On November 4, 2015, Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT) introduced the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015, to limit the application of federal laws to the distribution and consumption of marijuana. The bill was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.