In a surprise maneuver on Friday afternoon, President Donald Trump struck a deal with Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi for a funding package that includes relief for Hurricane Harvey, the suspension of the current debt ceiling and an extension of federal protections on medical cannabis states. The three-month deal protects states with medical cannabis through December 8.
The Congressional Cannabis Caucus, consisting of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Rep. Don Young and Rep. Jared Polis, is one of the few voices of reason defending medical cannabis in the White House. Friday’s decision only temporarily protects medical cannabis businesses for an additional three months. “Good news today, but our fight isn’t over,” Blumenauer tweeted on September 8. “Everyone must stay focused as we work to end the cycle of uncertainty. We must win this.”
The news arrives days after the House Rules Committee blocked the protections from full House consideration for the fiscal year 2018 spending bill. Trump’s move “blindsided” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who didn’t want the hurricane relief combined with other provisions. Congress, however, was forced to quickly respond to the issue because the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was days from running out of money following the demise of Hurricane Harvey.
The $15.3 billion aid package includes the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, which protects 46 states that allow varying degrees of medical cannabis. The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment is a rider to the Omnibus Appropriations Bill and blocks funds from the Department of Justice from being used to prosecute states that allow medical cannabis.
On July 27, Senator Patrick Leahy passed the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment in the Senate Appropriations Committee, which means the language will be considered in a conference committee even though the full House was blocked from hearing the amendment. The House version of the spending bill specifically excluded medical cannabis protections in last week’s move led by House Rules Committee Chairman, Rep. Pete Sessions.
Anything could change at any moment, given the rollercoaster-like chain of events that surround how the federal government will approach medical cannabis.