Federal Marijuana Protections Extended Through April, But Face an Uncertain Future

wheelchair_patientMembers of Congress have re-authorized a federal provision prohibiting the Justice Department from interfering in state-authorized medical cannabis programs. The provision, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, was included in short-term spending legislation, House Resolution 2028, and will expire on April 28, 2017.

NORML is encouraging you to tell the incoming Congress that these pivotal patient protections must remain included in any future federal spending bills.

Initially enacted by Congress in 2014, the amendment maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.” In August, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the language bars the federal government from taking legal action against any individual involved in medical marijuana-related activity absent evidence that the defendant is in clear violation of state law.

Because the provision is included as part of a Congressional spending package and does not explicitly amend the US Controlled Substances Act, members must re-authorize the amendment annually. However, House leadership may prohibit federal lawmakers from revisiting the issue when they craft a longer-term funding bill this spring. Such a change in House rules would require members of the Senate to pass an equivalent version of the legislation, which would then need to be approved by House leaders in conference committee.

Looking ahead to 2017, marijuana law reforms face an uncertain future. Therefore, it is more important than ever that this federal protection remains in place to ensure that these patient programs and those who rely upon them are not subject to federal interference.

25 thoughts

  1. Is this just for medical? What about recreational?

    [Paul Armentano responds: The amendment explicitly protects medical programs. Broader laws are currently protected by the 2013 DOJ Cole memo. However, this memo is not binding and may be/will likely be ignore/rebuked by the next Attorney General.]

  2. Better batten down the hatches and get some good lawyers, a tempest is on the way.
    I think the first thing the Republicans will do is challenge the new laws in court… by the time these make their way to the Supreme Court it will be safely conservatized.
    Still we should be proud we achieved what we did, Legal in 8 states and medical in 29…
    Maybe the damage can be limited to the next 4 years and then we can take up where we left off. I fear this may become like the Reagan years and the cause may be set back decades instead of years…. remains to be seen.. At any rate,, the other side now has the ball.. time to play defense..

    1. The republicans can not do anything in California, and do not want to–the want the issue to go away if it would; the rest of the company may be much that way too–including Trump. It is no longer a fertile and profitable issue for them and anyone else–NORML must pressure Obama to remove Cannabis from its schedule as a hard drug, for the right, this is now a losing battle.

  3. How much would it cost for the feds to clamp down ? both in legal costs and personnel. It would certainly be a messy business and really bad publicity for the new administration. It is no longer an issue that people care about and there is no money in ramping up prohibition, in fact it will cost money (lots of it). Money and cheap popularity are 2 things President Trump really understands so I fail to see where the motivation would come from for clamping down.

    1. If the R-Farr amendment doesn’t get passed again in April, all it takes is for DOJ to send letters to the MMJ states advising it intends to enforce the CSA. State officials are at risk and will shut down. Then DOJ will send a letter advising it will commence forfeitures against properties (like it did in Oakland). Property owners will evict rather than risk forfeiture. I think things are going to get very bad, very quickly.

    2. I would disagree that it is no longer an issue most people care about. Marijuana is an addictive substance,,,, to the drug testing industry, they can’t live without it.
      Law enforcement is certainly against legalization,, no more seizing someone’s money and property because they found a seed in someone’s driveway.
      Politically, the recreational states, except Alaska, are all deep blue, so Republicans have nothing to lose going hardline.

  4. Back to the Future
    December 1980,
    Everybody under 50 smokes weed,(today those 50 year olds are 85)
    We got high with an off duty cop the other day.
    A lot of the teachers at school say marijuana should be legal.
    Did you know it is now legal in Alaska.
    The new President is for less government and personal freedom, he’s going to make America great again.
    You can get a prescription for marijuana if you have glaucoma.
    I hear some congressman in Georgia introduced a national medical marijuana bill,, funny name, Newt Gingrich.
    What are they going to do,,, test our urine, that’s unconstitutional, no way.
    The young people are all for it, even the youngest baby boomers can vote now, wait till they get elected.
    Several States have already decriminalized, places like California, Oregon, Colorado, Maine, even Mississippi. the new President is for States Rights,,,, Right.
    By 1990 it will be completely legal everywhere and we’ll all look back and laugh.

    December 1986. Marijauna,, never heard of it, no of course not, I knew a guy in High School who smoked it, real loser, but he doesn’t anymore, I don’t think anybody does.

    December 1990. I did it once, didn’t like it.

    December 1992. I used to, horrible horrible mistake. Don’t tell the kids.

    December 1994. Ok, when I was in college, yeah, but, you know, I outgrew it, youthful indiscretion, don’t tell anyone I told you though.

    1. This is what infuriates me about Republicans.

      Approximately 40 percent of them say they support legalization. Yet they invariably and repeatedly vote in “leaders” who are hell-bent on doing everything they can do to shut down legalization.

      When you confront them with the fact that they just fucked themselves (and everyone else along with them), instead of feeling remorse, they get all smug and satisfied. “We won, you lost,” they say. “You always lose because you just don’t get it.”

      This is maddening. And the more infuriated we become, the more they love it!

      Yeah, they’re “proud of themselves!” They “won!” It’s all the rank-and-file seem to care about. To them, policy is irrelevant — winning is everything. Even if the price is their own freedom. They get off on it, emotionally. Idiots.

      It makes me nauseous. Time for my medicine!

  5. Being childish and blaming Dems or Reps gets nothing accomplished. Dems and Reps both mostly fail to keep freedom and liberty. We need to take serious steps to insure freedom and liberty. We must avoid childish behavior like crying and destroying cities in either a riot by illegals and millennial’s or a oppressive police state. We must unite and stand for freedom and liberty. We must end this false idea of us and them. If your a USA citizen stand for freedom and liberty. Cannabis is not this demon nor a tool to destroy our nation by stealing property and putting people in prisons. It’s time to build up and unite our nation. It’s time to end this lie called the drug war on cannabis aka marijuana.

    1. Other than your racist crack about “riot by illegals” (millennials don’t riot, do they?) I think you’re on the right track. If Democrats and Republicans respected Freedom and Liberty, and Justice, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.

      It’s okay to cry about Trump, because Trump is a really bad thing to have happened. It’s an unnatural disaster.

      Now write your Senators and tell them to oppose Jeff Sessions for AG!!

  6. It is time to prevail upon out-going
    Pres. Obama to use this opportunity to remove marijuana from its schedule so that it can be treated as is alcohol. He has nothing to lose by doing so now.

    1. Wouldn’t the Republicans just love to watch Trump rescind another one of Obama’s executive orders on day one.
      This would give Sessions a defining moment to launch Drug War III. Not that he needs one.

      1. ^^ yep. What he said. It’s Sessions that’s the true danger here. Drug War III is highly profitable to all of his (presumed) backers – the private prison industry first and foremost, the pharma industry that despises an unpatentable plant and prefers to get the populus hooked on dangerous opiate meds. Could set us back decades on all fronts… pray to the Green Gods all remains safe and well!

  7. Congress finally needs to get off its ass and legalize by de-scheduling cannabis altogether. Opioid epidemic: I keep hearing them bitching about it yet neither do anything to separate the market of soft drugs like cannabis from hard drugs and nor do they legalize. Folks whose dealers were out of weed are dealing hard drugs out of the other pocket I tell you. They get some cannabis and they wean off of opioids looks like. Congress is simply not doing its job, and is expecting its bureaucratic minions in DOJ and DEA beneath Congress in the hierarchy structure, and that ain’t never gonna happen ’cause the bureaucracies follow and don’t write the laws for Congress and then Congress turn around and vote on ’em. You can hear crickets but so far nothing from President-elect Trump. Can’t expect him to do the right thing and legalize. He’s gonna to the ALT-RIGHT thing, I’m afraid.


  8. Focus on our state THEN your federal legislators, Republican or Democrat. Stop relying on the federal government to lead the way on marijuana policy, thats not how legalization works.
    I too predicted falsely many moons ago that President Obama would move the DEA to deschedule marijuana during his lame duck session, but that was when I still believed a majority of Americans were politically affluent enough to see through the lies and propaganda to elect a more Progressive Congress. Clearly, unaccountable lies on social media and the willingness to consume them on facebook or whatever, voter redistricting and voting rights did not help the situation.
    Any federal action outside of Congress to deschedule or reschedule marijuana without amending or anulling the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 will result in destroying state marijuana legalization policies through Federal court. It amazes me how many times I have to repeat this statement on this blog despite the same people posting a hail to Obama to deschedule anyway. The Cole memos to the DOJ and stepping out of the way was the best thing Obama could do. As he said recently, with the entire Pacific corridoor under state legalization, marijuana enforcement is now “untenable.”
    Now the Rorhabacher-Farr amendment, until April, will buy us some time to lobby every member of the Senate Judiciary to block the nomination of Jeff Sessions to Attorney General and contact our federal Congress to extend this bill in order to protect our economic and state security interests from each of our states that have legalized. Use the links. Write your state and federal Congressman on how marijuana legalization will protect you and your family’s economic security in your state and federal Congressman’s district.

    1. Sessions will be confirmed, he is a sitting Senator. Voter and advocacy group pressure only goes so far on this issue. I don’t like it, but that’s reality. The one and only thing that can change the present dynamic is for the industry to use its financial muscle to lobby Congress. Above all else, Congress listens when money speaks.

    2. Why, thank you, sir. That was very well said! Makes the most sense of anything I’ve read in a long while….

    3. Jeff Sessions has zero interest with interfering with state marijuana laws. President-elect Trump is the same.

  9. Note, if Pres.Obama changes the drug schedule before leaving office–the protection can be more easily protected. We must prevail upon him, as an organization, to do so! That is our easiest first move!

  10. I thought the Republicans were so much in favor of states rights? Oh I forgot, they believe in state’s rights when it fits THEIR AGENDA! Right wing hypocrisy never ceases to amaze me

  11. Where is the outrage over the Obama DEA’s handling of CBD? NORML has become a Democratic Party advocacy group instead of being the mouthpiece of marijuana decriminalization. Republicans have zero need, want nor desire to bash the legality/decriminalization of marijuana laws, and I am optimistic that it will in fact be this Republican controlled federal government and the 32 Republican controlled state legislatures that will put this marijuana criminalization nightmare behind us all.

    [Paul Armentano responds: NORML works with Democrat and Republican allies alike. The recently proposed rule change you refer to was initiated first by DEA over five years ago and largely amounts to an administrative change, not a policy change — hence we have paid it little attention. Finally, your expressed ‘faith’ in Senator Sessions not being interested in taking on marijuana policy issues flies in the face of his own words and actions as a US Senator.]

  12. Trump/Se$$ions may send you all to Federal Prison?

    Medical providers, Patients, Doctors, owners, investors,Profiteers = Many counts of Federal Conspiracy to Traffic/Distribute a Class 1 narcotic.

    Straight to Private Prison…at his whim.

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