US House endorses protections for adult-use marijuana programs

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(This story has been updated to reflect the results of the final roll-call vote.)

The U.S. House, for the second year in a row, passed an amendment that would prevent the Department of Justice from interfering with state-legal recreational and medical cannabis programs.

The provision reflects bipartisan support in the Democratic-controlled House for protecting marijuana programs that are legal under state laws.

After approval by a voice vote earlier in the day, the measure passed 254-163, with 31 Republicans in favor.

But it’s not likely the provision, which is part of the fiscal year 2021 Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill, will be similarly embraced by the Republican-controlled Senate.

Last year, the provision was stripped out of the final spending bill in the conference committee.

Since 2014, Congress has passed spending bills that have included language preventing the Justice Department from using funds to crack down on state-legal medical cannabis businesses.

But last year was the first time the U.S. House extended those protections to recreational marijuana programs.

The provision is known as the Blumenauer-McClintock-Norton-Lee amendment.

It’s named after its House sponsors:

  • Earl Blumenauer, Oregon Democrat.
  • Tom McClintock, California Republican.
  • Eleanor Norton, Democrat from Washington DC.
  • Barbara Lee, California Democrat.

Protections in annual spending bills are temporary, so what marijuana businesses really want to see is permanent reform at the federal level.

Last fall, in a historic vote, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee passed a sweeping federal marijuana legalization bill. The measure, called the MORE Act, would remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Legalization advocates hope the MORE Act will be considered by the full House later this year.