Congress has once again put the cannabis industry on pins and needles. On Wednesday night, the U.S. House Rules Committee blocked a floor vote to keep in place the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment (formerly known as Rohrabacher-Farr). This amendment blocks the Justice Department from using federal tax dollars to go after states that have legalized marijuana.
The rider has been included in budgets since 2014 and has allowed the cannabis industry to operate without being prosecuted by the Justice Department. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made it clear he can’t stand being handcuffed in this manner and has wanted it reversed. This week’s deal that President Trump made with the Democrats to extend the current spending budget to Dec. 15 has given the industry some time to maneuver and have the amendment added back into the budget.
Tom Angell, founder of the Marijuana Majority, noted that the issues aren’t dead yet. “The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee added both the state medical cannabis protections and the veterans rider to its versions of spending bills this year,” Angell said. “The matters will likely be resolved by a House-Senate conference committee that later merges the two chambers’ bills together.”
“Opposing seriously ill patients’ access to medical cannabis is sick enough, but blocking the people’s representatives from even being able to vote on the matter is just obscene,” he added. “Forty-six states now allow some form of medical marijuana and polls consistently show that more than 90% of voters support the issue, but a small handful of Congressional ‘leaders’ decided behind closed doors to kill this amendment without due consideration. Marijuana reform opponents know that the only way they can impede our progress is by using dirty legislative tricks. But they won’t be able to do this without people noticing.”
In addition to the Rohrabacher-Blumenhauer amendment, other marijuana legislation also got the bounce. The McClintock-Polis amendment that would have protected adult-use marijuana in legalized states and a banking amendment that had been sponsored by Rep Denny Heck was also kept from being voted on.
Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, says nine out of 10 Americans support legal access to medical cannabis. “Voters of all political persuasions generally agree the federal government should not be using limited resources to interfere with state medical cannabis laws,” says Smith. “Shutting down regulated medical cannabis businesses will result in licensed patients resorting to the criminal market to obtain their medicine.”
Smith is hopeful that since the amendment is included in the Senate’s Appropriations bill, both sides of the aisle will come together and renew the amendment. “Fortunately, the amendment is currently included in the Senate’s Appropriations bill, so Congress still has a chance to protect patients and state-legal cannabis businesses in conference committee. We hope leaders on both sides of the aisle will work together to ensure this widely popular amendment is renewed in this year’s spending package.