A bill passed by Congress on Friday to fund the federal government through Dec. 8 will also prevent Attorney General Jeff Sessions from taking action against cannabis providers who are in full compliance with state law for the same time period.
The protections allotted by the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment had been set to expire with the current federal budget on Sept. 30 at midnight, meaning that on Oct. 1, drug warrior Sessions would have been free to use federal funds to prosecute cannabis providers who weren’t breaking any state laws. Even the most reputable and tightly regulated of the ever-growing number of dispensaries would have been at risk, had Congress not moved to protect medical cannabis programs.
The amendment would have expired because the House Appropriations Committee blocked the renewal of Rohrabacher-Blumenauer on Sept. 6 — though it did make it into the Senate version of the budget. Congressmen Rohrabacher and Blumenauer released a joint statement on their effort being blocked, after Rohrabacher gave a vivid speech trying to rally support.
“By blocking our amendment, Committee leadership is putting at risk the millions of patients who rely on medical marijuana for treatment, as well as the clinics and businesses that support them,” said the congressmen. “This decision goes against the will of the American people, who overwhelmingly oppose federal interference with state marijuana laws. These critical protections are supported by a majority of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle. There’s no question: If a vote were allowed, our amendment would pass on the House floor, as it has several times before.”
The lawmakers also noted their fight to protect medical marijuana patients is far from over and the marijuana reform movement is large and growing.
“This bad decision by the House Rules Committee is an affront to the 46 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized use and distribution of some form of medical marijuana. These programs serve millions of Americans. This setback, however, is not the final word. As House and Senate leadership negotiate a long-term funding bill, we will fight to maintain current protections,” they said.
This warning proved to be true — with Congress extending the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment until Dec. 8 through a rider in the federal spending bill, just two days after the House Rules Committee shut down the amendment.
Moving forward, Congress can also extend the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment through the conference committee process — where lawmakers reconcile the Senate and House versions of the budget. If they fail, medical cannabis providers will be susceptible to the wrath of Sessions.
In the past, Sessions has literally blamed cannabis for ruining his relationship with the Ku Klux Klan, who seemed okay in his eyes until he found out that some of the white supremacists may have not just been sparking up crosses. In a letter to Congress leaked to Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority, Sessions balked at the Ninth Circuit Court ruling that prevented him from targeting people that did nothing wrong except violate the Controlled Substances Act. His requests basically read like you are watching him hungrily gaze at California and Colorado.
In the letter, Sessions expressed anger that the court held the Department of Justice must “not prosecute violations of the [Controlled Substance Act] with respect to marijuana unless a court concludes that the individuals or organizations are not in compliance with state medical marijuana.” It’s clear in the letter, therefore, that Sessions wants to try cases against people without evidence of anything but complete compliance. Sessions is looking for softball cases against taxpaying businesses that keep pristine paperwork.
Further accusations by Sessions claimed legal cannabis markets were providing a safe haven for criminal elements with Cubans, Asian, Caucasian, and Eurasian backgrounds. He then went on to cite enforcement efforts by the state of Colorado as a reason he needed to have full powers to target the cannabis industry. However, because the defendants in question were obviously not in compliance with state law, Sessions actually would have been able to take action in the very case he presented Congress, had he gotten permission from a court.
However, one of the top pot policy lobbyists in D.C. isn’t losing hope.
“I’m very optimistic,” said Drug Policy Alliance director of government relations Bill Piper. “So far everything is playing out the way it did last year so we’re on track.”
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