Congress keeps medical marijuana protections in budget deal

Congress unveiled a $1.1 trillion spending bill Monday that includes a provision to extend key protections for state-licensed medical marijuana businesses through the end of September.

The MMJ amendment has been closely watched given the new Trump administration’s mixed messages about cannabis. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has spoken critically about marijuana, but he recently signaled his department isn’t poised to impose a major crackdown on state-legal MJ businesses.

The language in the budget bill, which Congress is expected to pass later this week, prohibits the Department of Justice from using budget money to undermine state medical marijuana programs or go after state-licensed businesses and patients, The Hill reported.

“Medical marijuana patients and the businesses that support them now have a measure of certainty,” Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat who is a member of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said in a news release. “But this annual challenge must end. We need permanent protections for state-legal medical marijuana programs, as well as adult-use.”

The MMJ provision was first introduced in 2003 but didn’t pass until 2014. Since then, Congress has extended the protection several times, including most recently last week, when it granted an extension of seven days, or until May 5.

The latest extension expires Sept. 30, the expiration date for the spending deal.

The amendment’s language does not extend to recreational marijuana laws or businesses, which both remain vulnerable to interference by the DOJ.