House Committee Rejects Federal Cannabis Protections

Federal Cannabis ProtectionsYesterday, the United States House Committee on Rules rejected the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, which protects states’ medical cannabis laws, from its place in a federal appropriations bill. The amendment has kept Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice from meddling with the 46 states that allow some form of medical cannabis. The committee also delivered several other blows to the nationwide medical cannabis industry.

The implications of the decision could put millions of medical cannabis patients, businesses and organization in jeopardy. Rep. Duncan Hunter told The Hill that the GOP considers the amendment to be a divisive tactic. The GOP-led House committee is led by Rep. Pete Sessions, whom NORML has called a prohibitionist.

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher blamed Attorney General Jeff Sessions for the amendment’s downfall. “Unfortunately, my longtime friend Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, has urged Congress to drop the amendment, now co-sponsored by Rep. Earl Blumenauer,” Rohrabacher wrote in a Washington Post op-ed. “This, despite President Trump’s belief, made clear in his campaign and as president, that states alone should decide medical marijuana policies.”

The amendment has been in place since 2014, when it was called the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, but it was renamed a year later after Rep. Sam Farr retired. The amendment is set to expire at the end of September.

The bill, however, is not legislatively dead. “This isn’t over!” tweeted Rep. Blumenauer. “As House & Senate finalize [the] funding bill, we will fight for patients & to continue critical medical marijuana protections.” The Senate Appropriations Committee recently allowed the amendment to be included in the larger federal spending bill, meaning that when the House committee is done, it must then be reconciled with the Senate in a joint committee.

Three cannabis banking amendments proposed by Rep. Denny Heck were also rejected by an 8-5 vote. Another amendment would have killed the federal incentive to revoke driver licenses from people with cannabis charges. Protections on hemp programs, medical cannabis research facilities and adult-use in the District of Columbia were also rejected. Despite the number of setbacks, cannabis advocates and the lawmakers backing the amendment remain resilient. Thirty states now have medical cannabis programs in place, plus 16 more with CBD access.

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