The Department of Justice will continue to be blocked from spending taxpayer dollars on enforcing federal cannabis prohibition against state-compliant medical cannabis providers thanks to another extension of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment expected to take place later this week.
The amendment has been the keystone of keeping the Drug Enforcement Administration at bay since 2014 when it was called the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment. California’s Dana Rohrabacher has been pushing this format for blocking federal intervention for well over a decade, originally with the help of Rhode Island congressman and early congressional pot champion Maurice Hinchey. The results of Rohrabacher’s efforts have been a driving catalyst for the expansion of the industry by giving some of the some the those with the most capital an aura of safety in their new financial dealings. Most importantly, the amendment has gone a long way in keeping those who would have been the subject of potential criminal investigations out of jail cells.
The amendment’s extension isn’t a done deal yet, but things are looking promising, according to advocates. The omnibus budget bill the amendment is attached to is expected to pass later in the week.
The nation’s oldest cannabis reform nonprofit, NORML, was thrilled with what they call “the critical marijuana policy provisions,” being extended through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year 2017. Lawmakers will need to reauthorize the amendment for the fiscal year 2018.
“The decision to reauthorize this language illustrates both compassion and common sense when it comes to marijuana policy,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “The majority of states and over 90 percent of the public approves of the use of marijuana as a medicine and Congress should not stand in the way of these reforms.”
Strekal was thrilled to see Congress sticking up for the rights of medical cannabis providers and patients in an era that sees the Department of Justice ran by Alabama’s Jeff Sessions.
“Congress deciding to maintain protections for state-sanctioned medical marijuana programs in the era of a Department of Justice being led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions means that patients ailing from conditions that range from cancer to PTSD can breathe a temporary sigh of relief,” said Strekal. “When approved, states will be able to continue to service and implement these programs without fear of federal incursion until September 30 of this year.”
Strekal closed by noting that these measures being taken to protect folks were far from perfect.
“This action is only a stopgap measure at best,” he said.
Strekal believes Congress needs to amend federal law in a manner that comports with the available science, public opinion and with America’s rapidly changing cultural and legal landscape.
“Such action includes removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act so that states possess the flexibility to engage in their own marijuana regulatory policies how best they see fit,” he said.
Marijuana Policy Project Political Director Robert Capecchi shared in his compatriot’s enthusiasm, but said the decision to extend the amendment wasn’t a shocker for him.
“It’s wonderful news that the FY 2017 omnibus budget bill extends the Rohrabacher Blumenauer amendment, and while I’m certainly relieved to see the actual language included, I’m not terribly surprised,” Capecchi said. “Polls routinely show a vast majority of Americans, from across the political spectrum, support medical marijuana laws; it would seem foolish if Congress chose not to protect their constituents who are complying with their state law.”
Just up the street from Congress, one of D.C.’s longest operating dispensaries was glad their neighbors were making progress.
“We’ve been encouraged to see growing bipartisan support for state medical marijuana programs and the patients they serve,” said David Guard of Capital City Care. “Facilities like ours operate under tight regulations to assist physician-approved patients, so we’re constantly focused on legal compliance and patient care. Continuing congressional support reflects the positive example that patients, providers and regulators have worked hard to establish.”
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