Last week, as the federal government was approaching a shutdown state-legal medical marijuana programs faced their own issues. Beginning at 12:01 a.m. Saturday and lasting until Monday afternoon, the crucial state-legal medical marijuana protections had disappeared.
The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment has been the protector of state’s medical marijuana programs. The amendment essentially prohibits the U.S. Justice Department from prosecuting medical marijuana activity that is in accordance with state laws. The amendment, part of the federal budget, removed all DOJ funding from such prosecutions and protected marijuana companies and patients.
This is not the first time that the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment has been at risk of expiring. Back in September, the debate over the budget threatened the future of the amendment. But, the government’s latest deadlock regarding border security and immigration brought the shutdown into reality. Luckily, on Monday afternoon these protections were restored until February 8, from the temporary budget deal.
So, Now What? In the meantime, drug-reform organizations are coming together to advocate for the cause requesting that Congress not only renew the expiring protections but to also make them permanent. Yet, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Congress has a hard time agreeing on passing budgets, imagine the debate over pro-marijuana legalization.
Rohrabacher had introduced his “Respect State Marijuana Laws Act” last year and has forty-two co-sponsors of the law. Yet, there has not been one committee hearing, and without a hearing by a committee chair, the bill means does not advance to become a law. To put an end to this deadlock would require the participation of chief committee heads such as U.S. Representative Pete Sessions. This is the same Pete Sessions who denied committee members to even vote towards protecting state-legal marijuana from any type of federal intrusion.
It is unclear if Congress will appease those calling for the amendment to have a more permanent standing. With AG Jeff Sessions rescinding the Cole Memo, nothing is certain in Washington at this time regarding the future of marijuana even as many states progress further with legalization. We will just have to check back in two weeks when the temporary budget expires, once again.