- House Rules Committee blocks a vote on a critical cannabis amendment
- The Rohrabacher – Blumenauer amendment protects medicinal cannabis users and distributors from federal interference
- Medicinal cannabis is illegal under federal law, though thirty states have, or are developing, a medicinal cannabis program
The GOP-led House Committee on Rules on Wednesday blocked a floor vote on a critical cannabis amendment to a federal appropriations bill that protects medical cannabis patients and distributors from a federal prosecution.
The bipartisan Rohrabacher – Blumenauer Amendment disallows the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Agency from using federal funds to prosecute medical marijuana businesses in states where medical marijuana is legal. The amendment was first enacted in 2014 and has been renewed twice since then.
While the bill has been approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee — meaning it could still be included in the final spending bill — the move is a setback for pro-cannabis lawmakers.
“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,” The amendment’s co-sponsors, Reps. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, and Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat, said in a joint statement.
“This decision goes against the will of the American people, who overwhelmingly oppose federal interference with state marijuana laws.”
The amendment, if it isn’t included in the final spending bill, could open up the medicinal cannabis industry to a crackdown by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Rep. Rohrabacher wrote an op-ed published in The Washington Post Tuesday urging his “fellow conservatives” to protect medical cannabis from his “longtime friend” Sessions and federal interference.
“I should not need to remind our chief law enforcement officer nor my fellow Republicans that our system of federalism, also known as states’ rights, was designed to resolve just such a fractious issue,” Rohrabacher wrote. “Our party still bears a blemish for wielding the ‘states’ rights’ cudgel against civil rights.”
Sessions is a vocal opponent of both medicinal and recreational cannabis, and has signalled that he may crack down on states that have legalised the drug in the past. While Sessions is an opponent of cannabis, President Donald Trump said on the campaign trail in 2016 that he’s “100% in support” of medicinal cannabis and supports state’s rights to choose whether or not to legalise cannabis.
Though Trump and Sessions have been somewhat distant over the past few months, Trump released a statement in May — after approving a $US1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill — specifically asserting the federal government’s constitutional right to go after medicinal marijuana businesses, should he choose.
Cannabis is considered a Schedule 1 drug by the federal government, though thirty states have, or are in the process of, legalizing the sale and consumption of both medicinal and recreational marijuana.
Rep. Duncan Hunter told The Hill the vote was blocked because it “splits the conference too much,” referring to the Republicans on the Rules Committee.
Reps. Rohrabacher and Blumenauer pushed back at Rep. Hunter’s assessment, saying that the amendment is supported by a majority of lawmakers 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,” Reps. Rohrabacher and Blumenauer said.
“Our fight to protect medical marijuana patients is far from over,” the represenatives added. “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.”
The National Organisation for Marijuana Reform Laws, an advocacy group, released a statement from actress Whoopi Goldberg on Wednesday prior to the blocked vote.
“It is absolutely critical that we ensure these patients can continue to access their medicine,” Goldberg said. “Attorney General Sessions and the Department of Justice should not put patients at risk!”
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