An amendment that would keep the Department of Justice from interfering with state medical marijuana programs was voted “out of order” by the House Rules Committee on Wednesday, preventing the House from including it in its version of the FY 2018 federal budget.
This amendment, introduced by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), would prevent the Department of Justice from spending any resources to target medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it is legal. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced a similar budget amendment in the Senate, which was approved in a committee voice vote in July.
In 2014, Congress passed a similar amendment to an omnibus-spending bill. This amendment was subsequently renewed, but it now stands to expire on September 30 unless the Senate version of the budget is approved in a joint House/Senate conference committee or Congress fails to pass a budget.
If the amendment is not included in the budget or carried over, the Department of Justice will have nothing to prevent it from targeting state medical marijuana programs. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has repeatedly stated that he opposes marijuana being legal for any reason and in May sent a letter to Congress urging it to vote down the amendment and allow him to resume prosecuting medical marijuana providers.
MPP's Don Murphy released the following statement:
When an overwhelming majority of Americans oppose federal interference in state medical marijuana programs, it is unconscionable not to let their Representatives vote on whether to continue this policy. Unless Congress chooses the Senate budget version, millions of seriously ill patients and the legitimate businesses that provide them with safe access to their medicine will be at risk of prosecution.
“This vote is a slap in the face of patients, their families, their elected representatives, and the 10th Amendment.
UPDATE: A federal budget deal has extended the medical marijuana protections until Dec. 8, but inclusion in the final budget for next year is still in danger.
Yesterday, a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) that would largely prevent the federal government from interfering with state medical marijuana laws.
This bill is a companion to a historic CARERS Act introduced earlier this month in the Senate with bipartisan support.
The bill would make production, distribution, and possession of marijuana for medical purposes that’s legal under state law legal under federal law, and would make conducting research on marijuana easier, among other things.
The House of Representatives approved an amendment Wednesday that will facilitate marijuana businesses in working with banking institutions, International Business Times reports. The Heck Amendment, named after its sponsor Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA), was approved by a vote of 231-192. The amendment effectively blocks the SEC and Treasury Department from penalizing banks who lend money to legitimate marijuana businesses in areas where they can legally do business. The Heck Amendment was supported by both parties and represents growing bipartisan support of marijuana businesses, especially after the recent vote by Congress to defund the DEA’s ability to interfere with medical marijuana patients and businesses that are in compliance with state law. If the Heck Amendment is implemented, it will be a major victory in the effort to allow legitimate businesses to control the marijuana market.
In the past, many financial institutions have shied away from assisting marijuana businesses for fear that the federal government will go after them for it, forcing most to operate on a cash-only system. Because of this, they are required to transport thousands of dollars physically, making them targets for robberies and other crimes. Wednesday’s vote is the first step towards allowing legitimate marijuana businesses to utilize alternative forms of payment, such as credit cards and bank accounts, like all other businesses.
On Wednesday, in a 61-57 vote, the Illinois House of Representatives passed legislation that would remove criminal penalties for the medical use of marijuana by patients with serious illnesses whose doctors recommend it. This marks the first time the House has approved such a measure.
House Bill 1, sponsored by Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), would allow Illinois residents with certain medical conditions to possess up to two-and-a-half ounces of marijuana, which they would be able to access from one of up to 60 dispensing centers regulated by the Illinois Department of Licensing and Professional Regulation. Marijuana would be grown by one of up to 22 cultivation centers, one per state police district, regulated by the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
We’re very excited about today’s victory, but the fight is far from over. The bill now heads to the state Senate. If you live in Illinois, please contact your senator now and urge him or her to vote “yes” on HB 1.
On Tuesday, a group of doctors held a news conference to announce the support of nearly 250 Illinois physicians for allowing patients with serious illnesses to obtain and use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it.
Specifically, the doctors signed on to the following statement:
Licensed medical practitioners should not be punished for recommending the medical use of marijuana to seriously ill people, and seriously ill people should not be subject to criminal sanctions for using marijuana if their medical professionals have told them that such use is likely to be beneficial.
Their endorsement comes just as the Illinois House of Representatives prepares to vote on House Bill 1, which would allow patients with serious illnesses to use medical marijuana with recommendations from their physicians.
The bill would also establish a network of state-regulated cultivation centers and dispensaries to provide marijuana to qualified patients.
If passed, Illinois would become the 19th state to legalize medical marijuana.
On Thursday, May 5, the Vermont House of Representatives voted 99-44 to approve an amended bill that would allow four well-regulated non-profit medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the state.
I am pleased to announce that the Senate has approved the amendments, and the bill is now on its way to the governor to be signed into law!
It is expected that Gov. Peter Shumlin will approve the bill. He has stated his support for marijuana reform publicly in the past and has been a consistent ally.
Hopefully, with Gov. Shumlin’s help, medical marijuana patients in Vermont will soon be able to access the highest quality medicine safely and affordably.