McConnell's hemp amendment gets green light from Appropriations

 

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved an amendment, co-sponsored by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), aimed at fostering research into industrial hemp, which is made from the marijuana plant.

The amendment, offered by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), was approved on a bipartisan 22-8 vote.

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It is aimed at blocking the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) from interfering with research that was set up in the five-year farm bill approved in January.

Committee ranking member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) voted against the provision, saying blocking the DEA from raids on a controlled substance set a bad precedent. He was joined by liberal Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) was among those who voted for the hemp language.

“This isn’t the stuff you smoke. It would take 80 pounds to get a buzz,” Tester said.

Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) thanked him for his “expertise” before voting for the amendment.

The language is now part of a $51.2 billion bill funding the departments of Commerce and Justice, as well as the science and space agencies for fiscal 2015. That bill passed out of committee on a unanimous 30-0 vote.

The Commerce, Justice and Science bill is heading for full floor consideration as part of a package of spending bills, possibly as early as the week of June 16.

Next week, the committee is slated to approve a legislative branch bill and a Labor, and Health and Human Services bill funding ObamaCare. It already has approved Agriculture and Veterans Affairs bills.

The House on May 30 passed its own version of the bill on a bipartisan 321-87 vote. That bill contains some controversial gun riders that the Senate is likely to oppose.

It also contains the same hemp language that was approved in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.