Federal Protections on Medical Cannabis Restored after Government Shutdown

Monday afternoon, Senators voted 81-18 to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government running until Feb. 8. Under the new budget, the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, which protects medical cannabis state programs, is once again in effect.

The amendment has been through an rollercoaster of ups and downs over the last several years. It’s the seventh time the amendment has been temporarily extended, according to Marijuana Business Daily.

Republicans and Democrats agreed on the continuing resolution only with the stipulation that congress revisit the controversial Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (also referred to as DACA) program and border security.

On Friday, Jan. 19, Senators failed to reach an agreement on the federal omnibus spending bill, causing a government shutdown. When the government shutdown, the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment automatically expired, leaving a gap in federal protections. The shutdown lasted approximately three days. Now, with a continuing resolution, the protections under the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment

Congressman Rohrabacher indicated that if congress can come up with an omnibus bill that will include an appropriations bill for the Department of Justice, it would give cannabis proponents breathing room.”

Despite having the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment as a rider “My vote today is the same as my vote the prior time: No,” Rep. Blumenauer stated bluntly. “The situation today is the same as it was then, except there is one-week fewer to actually get something done.” Blumenauer cited differences over immigration and children’s health insurance.

Several other bills have been introduced that provide federal protections on cannabis laws. The McClintock-Polis Amendment, which adds adult-use to the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, now has 69 co-sponsors. Rohrabacher’s HR-975, “Respect State Marijuana Laws of 2017”, now has 40 co-sponsors.

There are several ways that members of congress could introduce bills to protect adult-use or medical cannabis laws in states that allow it. Continuing resolutions unfortunately only extend protections for a short period of time.


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