Powerful congressional panel puts medical marijuana protections in federal budget

cannabis stimulus spending

In a historic maneuver that signifies growing support in Washington DC for medical marijuana, a key congressional committee voted Thursday to continue to protect lawful state MMJ programs from federal interference or prosecution.

The House Appropriations Committee approved, by a bipartisan voice vote, an amendment by Rep. David Joyce, an Ohio Republican and former prosecutor, to attach the medical marijuana protections to the FY2019 Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill.

The provision – previously called the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment and, before that, Rohrabacher-Farr – prohibits the Justice Department from using funds to interfere with state medical marijuana programs or to prosecute MMJ businesses compliant with those state laws.

This is the first time the measure has been added to the appropriations bill in committee, all but ensuring it will go to the full House for a vote.

The amendment doesn’t offer any protections for legal state recreational marijuana programs.

NORML called Thursday’s development “historic,” while the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) declared that momentum is building behind marijuana reform at the federal level.

“This is just the latest sign that support for marijuana policy reform is growing in Congress, and we’re seeing that support on both sides of the aisle,” MPP’s Don Murphy said in a statement.

“Republicans are joining with Democrats to protect compassionate state medical marijuana programs from federal interference.”

Congress listening to America?

Murphy, MPP’s director of conservative outreach, said congressional support mirrors public opinion.

A recent poll by Quinnipiac University found that 93% of voters support medical marijuana and nearly three in four support protecting states with legal cannabis programs from federal prosecution.

Murphy said the fact the committee used a voice vote may indicate that opponents don’t want to be seen as voting against “sick patients and states’ rights.”

Although the provision to block the DOJ from cracking down on lawful state MMJ programs has been in effect since 2014, there is often a struggle to get the measure renewed because it has passed only as an amendment to the federal budget instead of as a stand-alone, permanent law.

Last year, House Rules Committee chair Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican, blocked the amendment from receiving a floor vote. Proponents generally have had to scratch and claw for extensions of three months to a year.

The current law, approved in March, expires at the end of September. It must be reapproved by Congress in some form to maintain federal protections for MMJ companies against potential prosecution or interference by federal authorities.

Amendment ‘99% solid’

Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Leadership Campaign and former executive director of MPP, predicted the amendment most likely will go to the House floor as is. He believes the measure is “99% solid” to be extended for the new fiscal year from Oct. 1, 2018, through Sept. 30, 2019.

But as a matter of legislative process, Kampia said, the House Rules Committee still could strip the amendment out of the bill by a 9-4 (or greater) vote or bring a competing amendment to the floor.

Meanwhile, advocates noted, a similar amendment, introduced by Reps. Tom McClintock, R-California, and Jared Polis, D-Colorado, to protect state adult-use programs has failed several times to advance out of the House Rules Committee.

A number of other bills to reform federal marijuana policy have been or are expected to be introduced, but some experts are skeptical Congress will take action before the November midterm elections.

In a tweet, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer – an Oregon Democrat and longtime cannabis advocate – lauded Thursday’s development.

But, he added, “MMJ protections alone are not enough. We need to expand to adult use.”

Jeff Smith can be reached at [email protected]

7 comments on “Powerful congressional panel puts medical marijuana protections in federal budget
  1. Lawrence Goodwin on

    Thanks for the informative update, Jeff Smith. It is utterly revolting how a solid majority of lawmakers in the United States Congress prolong the anti-“marihuana” sham. Every passing day they remain silent equals another nail in our republic’s coffin, considering the vast amounts of legal commerce and taxpayer savings at stake (tens of BILLIONS every year) from coast to coast. Mr. Blumenauer of Oregon remains among the bravest lawmakers in Congress, revealing simple truths about cannabis plants as he boldly exposes the blatant hypocrisy of phony ‘conservative’ obstructionists—those who are full of adoration for that type of government spending and waste. This is definitely one of the most relentless public-policy frauds in U.S. history.

  2. Clifton Middleton on

    The economic potential of Free Market Hemp is massive and unilateral as seen every where people are growing this wonderful plant. Marijuana production creates a Virtuous Economic Cycle that lifts all boats. The Marijuana Movement is the only viable political movement in the Nation. We have won and in so doing have redefined democracy by Plebiscite, Direct Consent of the Governed. We did this in spite of the opposition from the cops, religions, fake health organizations and the totally hypocritical and corrupt media. We have an Agenda. read Hard Seed.

  3. David on

    Marijuna has over 60,000 different uses for both medical and industrial usage other than smoking. There are so many cures for so many different diseases around the world and the sad part about it is that we can’t export it. Who cares what the rest of the world does with it as long as we can reap the rewards. If congress would legalize medical marajuna and allow it to be exported the united states of america would be able to out perform china monetarily.(well maybe)

  4. Jeff on

    Who is running against Pete Sessions this year? I would like to contribute to his opponent so we can get rid of this obstacle to MJ legalization.

    • lovingc on

      Ed Meier, Colin Allred are two of the dems running for Sessions place in the midterm. At least that is what came up on google, I’m not sure of them.

  5. James Morris on

    It’s time we the tax payers have the day of voting the old out and the new younger generation that’s soon apparent going to happen and the government sticks their heads in the sand to avoid being seen by the people who voted them in office.
    Pete Sessions will fail in pressure to keep tax payers from having there say about medical and rec. marijuana. I’m 65 years old and in my state you still go to jail for small amounts and I really don’t care who knows. I suffer all day every day and marijuana helps take away the hard pain.

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