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Failure to Pass Budget Bill Ends Key Federal Protection for Medical Marijuana Patients

With Congress’ failure to pass an appropriations bill, a protection for medical marijuana patients is no longer in force


With Congress unable to pass an appropriations bill Friday, a key protection for medical marijuana patients expired.

The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment was part of the budget law that expired Friday night, leading the government to shut down until a new bill can be passed. The amendment, added to the annual appropriations bill in 2014, specifically prohibits the U.S. Department of Justice from spending federal money on going after cannabis users who are in legal medical marijuana programs in the 29 states that now allow it.

Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level. The amendment was one of two things that have kept the federal government from trying to prosecute medical marijuana users, sellers and growers in states where it’s legal. The other was a memo by a former Justice official, the so-called Cole memo, that basically set Justice Department policy as uninterested in such prosecutions anyway. But that policy is no longer in force, with current U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently rescinding it.

The federal government is likely to crack down immediately on medical marijuana users – in part because the government is shut down and only essential activities are being carried out.

Lawmakers in Congress have suggested several proposals that would extend protections to legal medical marijuana users, including proposals to declassify cannabis from its federal illegal status.

Nearly 70 members of Congress have pushed for a proposed extension of the protection, now being called the McClintock-Polis Amendment barring the federal government from prosecuting medical marijuana users.

Another measure, put forth by the longest serving Congressman, U.S. Rep. Don Young of Alaska, would expand the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment to prevent funding from any agency, not just the DOJ, going to marijuana enforcement against legal medical cannabis users.



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