A vote in Congress on Thursday that avoided a government shutdown with a stopgap spending bill also extended protections for state medical marijuana programs through Dec. 22.
David Royse | LedeTree
A section of federal law, known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, which prohibits the federal government from spending money to go after states that legalize medical marijuana, was also part of the bill. The measure which passed both the House and Senate on Thursday and now goes to the president for approval.
Passage came less than 48 hours from a deadline that would have forced a government shutdown.
Bluemenauer said the protections need to be made permanent, rather than having to stopgap the protection each time a new spending bill is up.
“While we are pleased that these critical protections will continue, two weeks is not enough certainty for the millions of Americans who rely on medical marijuana for treatment and the businesses who serve them,” U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer said in a statement. “As Congress works out a long-term funding bill, it must also include these protections. And ultimately, Congress must act to put an end to the cycle of uncertainty and permanently protect state medical marijuana programs—and adult use—from federal interference. The American people have spoken. It’s past time that Congress catch up.”
The Democrat from Oregon is one of Congress’ most vocal boosters of medical marijuana.
Blumenauer and California Republican U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher sent a letter signed by 64 other members of Congress this week to congressional leaders urging the continued inclusion of the protection in the final appropriations bill, which now must be passed by Dec. 22 to avoid a government shutdown, unless lawmakers again pass a short-term continuation.
The protection for state marijuana laws was also backed this week by the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, which also sent a letter to congressional leaders urging the amendment’s preservation.
“On its face, the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer/Leahy Amendment merely prohibits the use of taxpayer money by federal authorities to prosecute medical marijuana patients and providers who are in compliance with the laws of their state,” the CEI letter said. “At its heart, however, it is a guard for our nation’s fragile principle of federalism—the right of the states to govern matters within their borders as their constituents see fit.”
The letter noted that a majority of Americans now live in states that have legalized medical marijuana, and pointed to a Marist College poll from April that found 83 percent support among Americans for legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.