Debt deal keeps medical marijuana protections in place — for now
State medical marijuana programs aren’t getting the longer-term protection advocates had sought, but the debt limit deal passed by Congress late last week will keep them safe from federal intrusion for the next three months.
Portland Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer and California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher were rebuffed earlier in the week when the House Rules Committee blocked marijuana-related provisions from an annual appropriations bill.
The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, as it’s come to be known, would bar the Department of Justice from using funds to prevent states from “implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”
Those protections, in place since in 2014, were extended as part of a spending bill that passed in early May, but were scheduled to expire with the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.
The surprise debt limit deal struck last week between President Donald Trump and Democratic Congressional leaders takes the provisions through Dec. 8.
The last time the amendment faced a vote in the full House, in 2015, it passed 242-186. And despite objections from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Senate Appropriations Committee included it in their fiscal year 2018 appropriations bill that covers the Department of Justice. That would keep the provisions in effect through September 2018.
Sessions has been sending signals of a crackdown on marijuana — including in Oregon— despite the drug being legal in some fashion in 46 states now.
Rohrabacher and Blumenauer said they’ll keep pushing to include their amendment in FY18 funding bills.
“While this action provides a measure of certainty for the millions of medical marijuana patients and the clinics and business that support them, much more needs to be done,” they said in a statement Monday. “More than 95 percent of Americans now have state-legal access to some form of medical marijuana. The American people have spoken, and Congress needs to hear them.”
Pete Danko covers energy, cannabis and wine.