Federal Spending Bill Includes Medical Marijuana Protections

Washington, DC: In a blow to Attorney General Jeff Sessions anti-marijuana agenda, Congressional leadership included in the omnibus spending package language that was introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), to prohibit the Department of Justice and its affiliated agencies from prosecuting state-lawful and compliant medical marijuana systems, businesses, and patients.

Originally known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, it explicitly states 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.”

The amendment has been in place since 2014, as a part of annual spending bills. Because the provision was initially approved as a budgetary amendment, it must be explicitly re-authorized by Congress as part of either a continuing resolution or a new fiscal year appropriations bill in order to maintain in effect.

In the past month, NORML has worked with Representatives Rohrabacher and Blumenauer in recruiting 60 additional members of Congress to co-sign a letter of their own to Congressional leadership, which states, “We respectfully request that you include language barring the Department of Justice from prosecuting those who comply with their state’s medical marijuana laws. We believe such a policy is not only consistent with the wishes of a bipartisan majority of the members of the House, but also with the wishes of the American people.”

As the negotiations reached their peak, thousands of members of NORML contacted their federal officials to urge them to maintain these protections.

The House of Representatives passed the bill on Thursday afternoon but fate of this spending bill has yet to be made clear in the Senate. The bill is deemed a “must pass” piece of legislation as the federal government is set to shut down on Friday, March 23rd at midnight if action is not taken.

For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500.