Key federal medical cannabis protection gets stay of execution – again

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The only current federal statute protecting medical marijuana businesses from U.S. law enforcement agencies has been extended again, this time until Dec. 22.

The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment – previously known as Rohrabacher-Farr – will remain in federal law for at least another two weeks under a budget deal passed by Congress Thursday afternoon.

The budget bill, known technically as a continuing resolution, will keep the previous federal budget in place through at least Dec. 22 to give Congress more time to hammer out a new budget.

By retaining the previous budget, Congress also kept alive the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, which prohibits the Department of Justice from using federal funds to interfere with state-licensed MMJ businesses.

This is the fifth time Congress has extended the budget timeline – and, in turn, Rohrabacher-Blumenauer, which has a sunset clause that requires annual reauthorization from Congress. The last time the amendment was formally reauthorized was in 2015.

In December 2016, Congress passed the first continuing resolution on this issue, which kept the 2015 federal budget in place.

Then lawmakers passed a continuing resolution in April 2017 that lasted less than a week before a third one was passed. A fourth continuing resolution was passed in September.

And now Congress has given itself until Dec. 22 to approve a new budget.

Whether the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment will be part of that new budget is still an open question, though lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed support for it.

But the amendment has hit walls within Congressional committees, which could be a sign it’s in jeopardy.

If Rohrabacher-Blumenauer is allowed to expire, there will be nothing to prevent U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions from prosecuting medical cannabis companies under federal law, a path that Sessions has not yet completely ruled out.