Congress has released the new budget bill which will be viable until September 2017. They have once again decided to protect state medical marijuana laws by including in the budget a provision, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment. The amendment prevents the Justice Department from spending any money on going after medical marijuana anywhere in the country. It allows states to create their own medical marijuana laws without any fear of interference from the federal government. The budget bill was finalized by appropriators on Sunday night and is expected to pass this week.
“Medical Cannabis Patients in the U.S. Can Rest Easy”
Jeffrey Zucker, president of the cannabis business strategy firm Green Lion Partners, was happy that Congress chose to continue to protect medical marijuana around the country. “Medical cannabis patients in the U.S. can rest easy knowing they won’t have to return to the black market to acquire their medicine,” he said. “Operators can relax a bit knowing their hard work isn’t for naught and their employees’ jobs are safe.”
Protections in Place for Medical Marijuana and Hemp
29 states and Washington D.C. currently have medical marijuana laws in place that are now protected by the bill. 8 states and D.C. also have recreational marijuana laws that are not protected by the language in the provision which means, technically, the federal government could still make an attempt to crack down on adult use. Another aspect of marijuana law protected under the new budget bill is language that protects and supports industrial hemp research under Section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made some disturbing comments about marijuana earlier in the year. He is a long time marijuana oppositionist who once said “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” Earlier in the year he indicated that a crackdown may be on the horizon.
Cooling Fears of a Crackdown
Colorado’s Gov. John Hickenlooper met with Sessions to get a clear understanding of what the Trump administration intended to do. Hickenlooper was comforted by the meeting and left with the belief that there would not be a crackdown on recreational marijuana. With the new provision in place, Congress is making it clear that it doesn’t want federal funding being spent on interfering with state marijuana laws. It’s only one step towards progress in ending prohibition. Marijuana activists are still focused on the bigger picture, which includes descheduling the plant entirely.
The Need “to Remain Vigilant”
Despite Zucker’s enthusiasm for the new bill, he still emphasized the need to remain focused on legalizing marijuana, saying, “While this is great as a continuing step, it’s important for activists and the industry to remain vigilant and getting cannabis federally unscheduled and truly ending the prohibition of this medicinal plant.”
While Trump stated during his election campaign that he would allow states to create their own marijuana laws, it has been unclear until now whether this would in fact be the case. Comments by Sessions and press secretary Sean Spicer about a potential crackdown have seen the marijuana industry in a state of unrest since February. It would seem now, at least until September 30, 2017, medical marijuana patients across the country will be able to access their medication without interference.