Medical marijuana will be protected from prosecution under federal law, at least through September 30th, 2018, as President Trump signed an extension of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 last Friday.
Since 2014, a federal spending bill that determines the budget has been the only piece of federal legislation protecting states’ rights to legalize and use marijuana for medicinal purposes. Considering the fact that 2018 started off with Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinding the other piece of protection, known as the Cole Memo, seeing this funding bill stand between Sessions and his intentions to enforce federal marijuana law shows that Congress knows they shouldn’t interfere.
The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment is a part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, and it bans the Department of Justice from using their funding on state-legal medical marijuana cultivators, retailers and consumers. However, it does not protect the adult-use industry and laws, which now include 9 states and D.C.
The House Appropriations Committee will revisit the funding bill this fall to hopefully have it ready in time for fiscal year 2019, which means it will need to be finalized by November. When they do revisit it, there are at least 59 bipartisan lawmakers who want to see recreational cannabis covered next time.
“We are concerned about the Department of Justice enforcing federal marijuana law in a way that blocks implementation of marijuana reform laws in those states that have passed such reforms,” the lawmakers, led by Reps. Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Jared Polis (D-CO), wrote to top decision makers on the House Appropriations Committee on Friday.
“The issue at hand is whether the federal government’s marijuana policy violates the principles of federalism and the Tenth Amendment. Consistent with those principles, we believe that states ought to retain jurisdiction over most criminal justice matters within their borders. This is how the Founders intended our system to function.”
They even offer proposed wording that would specifically include all state-legal marijuana:
“None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used to prevent any of the several states from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana on non-Federal lands within their respective jurisdictions.”
In the past, the current wording that protects medical marijuana has been passed with a bipartisan vote each year since 2014 – by both the House and the Senate – so perhaps there is a good chance we will see the entire cannabis industry included by 2019. While the chances of seeing more progressive legislation, or a rescheduling of cannabis in the Controlled Substances Act, may still be far off, at least Congress recognizes that states deserve the right to end prohibition within their borders as they see fit.