The legislation is expected to be passed by the full Congress later this week.
Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, welcomed the extension of critical marijuana policy protections.
“Medical marijuana patients and the businesses that support them now have a measure of certainty,” said Congressman Blumenauer. “But this annual challenge must end. We need permanent protections for state-legal medical marijuana programs, as well as adult-use.”
The funding bill includes the policy championed by Representatives Blumenauer and Dana Rohrabacher (R-California), that prevents the Department of Justice from interfering in the ability of states to implement legal medical marijuana laws (previously known as “Rohrabacher-Farr”).
It also includes language that supports industrial hemp research allowed under Section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill.“The decision to reauthorize this language illustrates both compassion and common sense when it comes to marijuana policy,” said Justin Strekal, political director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “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.
“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,” Strekal said. “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.
“Yet, this action is only a stopgap measure at best,” Strekal pointed out. “Ultimately, 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.”
“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,” Zucker said.
The text in the omnibus funding legislation is:
Page 230 – “SEC. 537. None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to any of the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, 25 Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, or with respect to the District of Columbia, Guam, or Puerto Rico, to prevent any of them from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.