U.S. President Trump’s signing of an omnibus funding bill late last week extends projection for state medical marijuana programs, but doesn’t properly solve the issue.
An omnibus spending bill is an umbrella document containing smaller regular appropriations bills. It basically funds the government, with conditions attached, and it’s always a contentious process in pushing it through.
President Trump had initially threatened to veto it as it didn’t include funds for a border wall and other provisions relating to immigration. But in true Trump style, after sending strong signals he would hold out, his signature was forthcoming.
The bill includes what’s known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, which prohibits the Justice Department from using funds to meddle with or carry out prosecutions relating to state medical marijuana programs.
This amendment has been in place since 2014 and each time around it’s the same story – it gets threatened, then it is included and passed.
The situation creates a great deal of ongoing uncertainty; particularly more in the past year as Attorney General Jeff Sessions has had the amendment in his sights. In August last year, AG Sessions sent letters to lawmakers urging them to end protection of legal state medical cannabis programs.
Earlier this year, the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment protections were effectively temporarily ended when the budget appropriations bill was left in limbo, leading to a brief U.S Federal Government shutdown.
Those programs are now safe until September this year, when the saga will played out again.
“While I’m glad that our medical marijuana protections are included, there is nothing to celebrate since Congress only maintained the status quo,” said Representative Earl Blumenauer; one of the amendment’s namesakes. “This matter should be settled once and for all. Poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans, across every party, strongly favor the right to use medical marijuana.”
Rep. Blumenauer also accused the Republican leadership in Congress on stonewalling protections for state adult-use laws, cannabis banking and veteran access. A survey of military veteran households in the USA last year revealed overwhelming support for medical cannabis.
Rep. Blumenauer says the Republican leadership is “hopelessly out of touch and they should be held accountable”.