UPDATE: Congressional Budget Deal Extends Medical Marijuana Protections


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A budget deal approved in Congress on Friday extended federal protections for state-legal medical marijuana patients and providers until Dec. 8, potentially creating another opportunity to ensure they are inluded in the FY 2018 budget.

Earlier this week, the House Rules Committee blocked an amendment introduced by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) from being heard by the House during the rest of the budget negotiations. This made it very likely that the amendment, which prevents the Department of Justice  from targeting state medical marijuana programs, would not be included in the final budget for next year. Without inclusion, these protections would have expired Sep. 30.

This budget deal gives us a little more time to put pressure on Congress to do the right thing. Please contact your lawmakers and urge them to support medical marijuana.

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House Committee Blocks Medical Marijuana Protection Amendment


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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.

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Republican Congressman Urges Conservatives to Support Medical Marijuana Ahead of Crucial Budget Rules Vote


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On Tuesday after Congress returned from recess, Rep. Dana Rohrbacher published a column in the Washington Post asking his conservative colleagues to support his budget amendment that would protect state-legal medical marijuana patients and providers from federal interference.

Not long ago, a supporter of mine, visiting from California, dropped by my Capitol office. A retired military officer and staunch conservative, he and I spent much of our conversation discussing the Republican agenda.

Finally, I drew a breath and asked him about an issue I feared might divide us: the liberalization of our marijuana laws, specifically medical marijuana reform, on which for years I had been leading the charge. What did he think about that controversial position?

“Dana,” he replied, “there are some things about me you don’t know.” He told me about his three sons, all of whom enlisted after 9/11.

Two of his sons returned from the battlefield whole and healthy. The third, however, came home suffering multiple seizures each day. His prospects were bleak.

His medical care fell under the total guidance of the Department of Veterans Affairs, whose doctors came under federal restraints regarding the treatments they could prescribe. (Among the treatments allowed were opioids.) Nothing worked.

Finally, a sympathetic doctor advised our young hero to see him in his private office, where he could prescribe medication derived from cannabis. The prescription worked. The seizures, for the most part, ceased.

“Dana,” said my friend, “I could hug you right now for what you’ve been doing, unknowingly, for my son.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Senate Appropriations Committee Votes to Renew Protections for Medical Marijuana


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On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) approved an amendment in a voice vote that would continue to protect state medical marijuana programs from federal interference.

The amendment, introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), would add a clause to the CJS budget for Fiscal Year 2018 that prevents the Dept. of Justice from using resources to prosecute medical marijuana patients and providers that are in compliance with state law. A similar amendment was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

In 2014, Congress added a similar amendment to an omnibus spending bill that prevented the Dept. of Justice from spending any resources to target state-legal medical marijuana businesses. This amendment was subsequently renewed, but now stands to expire.

If the CJS budget is approved in the Senate, the amendment will go to a special conference committee to reach a compromise with the House. If no budget is approved by September 30, the previous amendment will be automatically renewed for another year.

MPP’s Don Murphy made the following statement:

“More than half the states have taken a stand and said they want their seriously ill residents to have safe and reliable access to medical marijuana, and today the Senate Appropriations Committee listened. What was expected to be a very successful vote passed on an overwhelming voice vote, while opposition to the Leahy amendment was literally a whimper. That sound we heard in the Senate was the sound of a waving white flag as the federal war on medical marijuana patients and providers winds down.”

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Congress Passes Spending Bill Continuing Protections for State Medical Marijuana Programs


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The Justice Department will continue to be prohibited from interfering in state medical marijuana laws under the federal spending bill passed Thursday in the Senate. The bill has already passed the House, and President Trump has said he will sign it.

The legislation includes a provision that is intended to prevent the department, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, from using funds to arrest or prosecute patients, caregivers, and businesses that are acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws.

The provision stems from an amendment originally sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and former Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), which was first approved by the House in May 2014. It was approved again by a larger margin in June 2015, then included in the continuing appropriations packages that have funded the federal government since October 2016.

Unfortunately, the spending package approved Thursday also includes a provision that prevents the District of Columbia from regulating the cultivation and distribution of marijuana for adult use. It was originally introduced by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Maryland) and approved in 2015, after District voters approved a ballot initiative to make possession and cultivation of limited amounts of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age and older.

MPP’s Robert Capecchi released the following statement:

“Congress appears to be growing increasingly comfortable with states adopting their own marijuana policies,” said Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Unfortunately, spending prohibitions like these expire at the end of the fiscal year, so there is still a need for a long-term solution.

“The time is right for Congress to adopt permanent legislation that protects individuals from federal enforcement if they are in compliance with state laws,” Capecchi said. “It is difficult to understand what they’re waiting for. The vast majority of U.S. voters oppose the federal government interfering in state marijuana laws, and there is now near-universal support for legalizing medical marijuana.”

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GOP Congressman Introduces ‘Respect State Marijuana Laws Act’


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Rep. Dana Rohrabacher

Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday that would resolve the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws and allow states to determine their own marijuana policies.

The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act exempts individuals and entities from certain provisions of the Controlled Substances Act if they are acting in compliance with state marijuana laws. This is the third time Rohrabacher has introduced the bill. Twenty of his colleagues in the House, including seven Republicans, co-sponsored the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015, which was introduced in the 114th Congress.

“The call for federal marijuana policy reform is growing louder and louder,” said Don Murphy, MPP director of conservative outreach. “Congress needs to listen to their constituents and to state lawmakers, most of whom agree marijuana policy is an issue best left to the states. This is a bipartisan solution that ought to find support on both sides of the aisle.”

 

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Congress Members Urge VA to Change Medical Marijuana Policy


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In a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald released Wednesday, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senate and House members urged the Department of Veterans Affairs to allow VA doctors to write medical marijuana recommendations to veterans in accordance with state laws.

The letter comes four days before the expiration of a directive that prohibits VA doctors from recommending medical marijuana, even in states that have made it legal.

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

The Congressional members, led by Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) in the Senate and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dina Titus (D-NV), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) in the House, say the current policy “disincentivizes doctors and patients from being honest with each other,” noting, “It is not in the veterans’ best interest for the VA to interfere with the doctor-patient relationship.”

“Congress has taken initial steps to alleviate this conflict in law and we will continue to work toward this goal,” the senators and representatives wrote. “However, you are in a position to make this change when the current VHA directive expires at the end of this month. We ask that you act to ensure that our veterans’ access to care is not compromised and that doctors and patients are allowed to have honest discussions about treatment options.”

The letter also highlights the “sea change in the legal framework surrounding marijuana in the United States” since the directive was issued in 2011. Comprehensive medical marijuana laws have been adopted in 23 states and Washington, D.C., and Congress has twice approved appropriations amendments intended to prevent the federal government from interfering with state medical marijuana programs.

 

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Congress Renews Ban on Justice Department Interference in State Medical Marijuana Laws


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The Justice Department will continue to be prohibited from interfering in state medical marijuana laws under the new federal spending bill unveiled late Tuesday night.

The compromise legislation includes a provision that is intended to prevent the department, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, from using funds to arrest or prosecute patients, caregivers, and businesses that are acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws. It stems from an amendment sponsored by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA) that was first approved in the House of Representatives in May 2014 and included in the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 signed by President Obama last December.

In April 2015, a Justice Department spokesman told the Los Angeles Times that the department did not interpret the amendment as affecting cases involving individuals or businesses, but merely “impeding the ability of states to carry out their medical marijuana laws.” In October, a federal judge ruled that interpretation was inaccurate and that the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment prevents the department from taking action against individuals who are acting in compliance with state laws.

Unfortunately, the new spending plan also includes an amendment, introduced by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Maryland) and approved earlier this year, which prevents the District of Columbia from regulating the cultivation and distribution of marijuana for adult use. District voters approved a ballot initiative in 2014 to make possession and growing of limited amounts of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age and older.

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U.S. Senate Committee Votes to Prohibit Justice Department From Interfering in State Medical Marijuana Laws


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The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved a measure 20-10 on Thursday that is intended to prevent the federal government from interfering in state medical marijuana laws.

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Sen. Barbara Mikulski

The amendment, offered by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) to the Senate version of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, prohibits the Justice Department, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, from using funds to interfere in the implementation of state laws that allow the cultivation, distribution, and use of marijuana for medical purposes. It mirrors the amendment sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) that was approved last week in the House of Representatives. Passage of identical amendments in the House and Senate typically indicates it will be included in the final spending bill Congress sends to President Obama.

This was the first time the amendment had been offered in the Senate. The House has passed it in each of the last two years, and it was codified in the so-called “CRomnibus” funding measure that became law last year. The amendment is similar to the operative provisions of the CARERS Act, introduced in March by Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY).

This is the second time in as many months that the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a marijuana policy reform measure. On May 21, the committee voted to allow doctors within the Veterans Affairs system to formally recommend medical marijuana to veterans.

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Congress Passes Historic Medical Marijuana Amendment as Part of Federal Spending Bill


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The bill includes an amendment that prohibits the Department of Justice — which includes the Drug Enforcement Administration — from using funds to interfere with state medical marijuana laws. A similar amendment has been offered seven times in Congress,Congress logo failing in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2012. The House finally approved it in May when it was offered by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) as an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. 
The federal spending bill also prohibits the U.S. Justice Department from interfering with state-level hemp laws.
Unfortunately, the bill also contains a provision that is meant to interfere with the implementation of Washington, D.C.’s recently approved marijuana initiative, and effectively blocks the District from regulating marijuana.
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