The House Appropriations Committee voted Thursday to continue blocking the Justice Department from interfering in state medical marijuana laws.
On a voice vote, the committee approved an amendment offered by Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) to the base FY2019 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill, prohibiting the Justice Department from using funds to interfere in the implementation of state laws that allow the cultivation, distribution, and use of marijuana for medical purposes. The bill will now be considered by the full House.
Such a provision has been in effect since 2014, but this is the first time it has been added to the base CJS Appropriations bill in committee. In previous years, the measure, which was known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment (and subsequently the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment), was added to the bill as a floor amendment, but last year Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) blocked it from receiving a floor vote.
MPP is excited to be moving into 2018 at a time when marijuana policy reform has unprecedented momentum. While there are sure to be challenges ahead, MPP is confident that we will make great strides this year.
You can find the strategic plan here.
In a great sign of things to come, one of our goals is already on the verge of success. On Thursday, the Vermont legislature passed a bill that would make possession and limited home cultivation legal in the Green Mountain State! The bill is expected to be signed into law in the coming weeks.
On Thursday, Congress reached a deal that would continue current government spending for another two weeks while they work toward reaching a final deal on next year's spending budget. This means that the amendment to the current budget, which prevents the Department of Justice from interfering in state medical marijuana programs, will remain in place for now.
In September, the amendment that would continue these protections for patients and providers who are in compliance with state law were included in the Senate version of the budget, but the House Rules Committee prevented the House from voting on it. Now, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees must decide if they will include this language.
Marijuana policy advocates were increasingly concerned at the end of this week. If the amendment had not been included in the budget, or if this deal had not been reached and the government shut down, it would have allowed Jeff Sessions to direct the Department of Justice to begin targeting state-legal medical marijuana programs for the first time since 2014. Sessions has been trying to get rid of these protections for months, and he sent a letter to Congress in May urging them to strip the amendment from the spending bill.
The new deadline is now December 22. Please contact your members of Congress, and urge them to protect state medical marijuana programs.
In a decision released on August 16, a federal court ruled that the Department of Justice cannot spend funds to prosecute medical marijuana patients and providers who are in compliance with state law.
Time Magazine reports:
The ruling comes after a 2014 Congressional law that prohibited the DOJ from interfering in state implementation of marijuana laws. That law led people being prosecuted by the federal government to seek the dismissal of their charges, arguing they were in compliance with state law. On Tuesday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, sending their cases back to lower courts to determine if they were in compliance with state laws. Some of the defendants ran Los Angeles based marijuana stores and faced charges for distributing 100 marijuana plants.
Tuesday’s decision by a three-judge panel was unanimous. But in its opinion, the court warned Congress could change its mind and again allow federal funding for prosecution of state-sanctioned marijuana use. “DOJ is currently prohibited from spending funds from specific appropriations acts for prosecutions of those who complied with state law,” the Court wrote. “But Congress could appropriate funds for such prosecutions tomorrow.”
John Hudak at the Brookings Institute agrees that this ruling is a positive development, but warns against celebrating too much. You can read his detailed analysis here.
Nearly Three-Quarters of Democrats Break with Administration Policy, Vote to Prevent Federal Agencies from Targeting Individuals in Compliance with State Medical Marijuana Laws
Democrats in the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to approve an amendment to the FY 2013 Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations bill late Tuesday that would effectively end the ability of federal agencies to enforce federal marijuana laws against individuals who are in compliance with state medical marijuana laws. The amendment stated that federal agencies may not use any funds to target individuals in states with medical marijuana laws, as long as those people are following the laws of their respective states. This amendment, which was debated five times last decade, was reintroduced after an increase in federal actions against state-legal medical marijuana providers throughout the country over the last year.
The amendment was supported by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California), Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-New York), Rep. Sam Farr (D-California), and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-California). It was defeated in the House by a vote of 163-262 at the close of voting. Of those in favor, 134 were Democrats and 28 were Republicans, with 72% of Democrats backing the measure. The strong support among Democrats is notable in light of recent criticism of the Obama administration’s crackdown on medical marijuana providers despite campaign promises that he would not use federal resources to undermine state medical marijuana laws.
“It is encouraging to see so many members sending a clear message to the Obama administration,” said Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project. “These 163 members are tired of seeing federal resources dedicated to undermining state medical marijuana laws. They understand, especially members from medical marijuana states, that when the Obama administration forces the closure of medical marijuana dispensaries, they are driving patients back to the streets to acquire their medicine. States are doing the right thing by ensuring that patients have safe access to medical marijuana. It is only a matter of time before every member of Congress accepts this truth.”
Currently, 16 states and the District of Columbia allow seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana with a recommendation from their doctor. Connecticut is poised to become the 17th state to pass a medical marijuana law. Another ten states are considering bills to make marijuana legal at this time.
The amendment performed about as well this time around as it did the last time it was considered in 2007. While that may not seem like progress, it is actually quite a step forward. In the most recent vote, we saw an increase in the percentage of both Democrats and Republicans that supported this policy change. The reason that the overall support for the amendment remained relatively unchanged is that support among Republicans is still fairly low, and many more of them are now in office than in 2007.
An amendment to the 2013 Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations bill in the U.S. House that would effectively end federal interference in medical marijuana states is being considered today, and we need your help!
The Rohrabacher-Hinchey-Farr-McClintock Amendment would stop federal agencies from spending any funds to target individuals acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws. This would include patients and providers, so long as those providers were following the law within their respective states.
If this passes, providers will no longer have to live in fear that the businesses they worked hard to build and keep in compliance with their state and local laws will be arbitrarily raided and destroyed by federal agents. Patients will no longer be forced to buy inferior medicine from dangerous criminals at the whim of U.S. attorneys. States will finally be free to determine the marijuana policies that work best for the seriously ill among their residents.
We need your help to make this happen. Please follow this link and call your member of Congress TODAY! Tell them that they need to support this amendment and make the federal government stop wasting its time and resources on medical marijuana.