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Medical Cannabis Protection Threatened In The USA

Protection of legal state medical cannabis programs under the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment was dealt a blow last week – but the battle is far from over.

The House Rules Committee considers all bills from policy and fiscal committees and determines whether to schedule voting on them by the House. The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment prohibits the Justice Department from spending funds to interfere with state medical marijuana programs and consequently, to carry out related prosecutions in states where medicinal cannabis is legal; assuming state guidelines are being followed.

Last week, the House Rules Committee blocked a vote on the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment. This prevents the House from including the amendment, which need to be renewed each year, in its version of the FY 2018 federal budget.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) condemned the House’s decision.

“By blocking our amendment, Committee leadership is putting at risk the millions of patients who rely on medical marijuana for treatment, as well as the clinics and businesses that support them,” said a joint statement.

“This decision goes against the will of the American people, who overwhelmingly oppose federal interference with state marijuana laws. These critical protections are supported by a majority of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle. There’s no question: If a vote were allowed, our amendment would pass on the House floor, as it has several times before.”

Actor Whoopi Goldberg is among those rallying Americans to take a stand and get in the ears of Congress.

“I’m writing to you with an urgent request: that you join me in telling Congress to protect lawful medical marijuana patients and programs from Attorney General Jeff Sessions,” said Ms. Goldberg.

“It is absolutely critical that we ensure these patients can continue to access their medicine.”

AG Jeff Sessions has had the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment in his sights for some time.

It may not be game over for the amendment. In August, we mentioned the Senate Committee on Appropriations voted in favour of it being included in FY2018 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations bill to continue the protection.

UPDATE : Congress voted to protect medical marijuana through to December 8 this year.

Other cannabis-related amendments blocked by the House Committee last week included:

  • Protections for states with hemp programs
  • Reducing funds for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s cannabis eradication program
  • Granting researchers increased access to cannabis
  • Protection for financial institutions servicing the cannabis industry

It’s not the first time an attempt has been made to reduce funding for the Cannabis Eradication Program. Back in 2015, we mentioned much of the DEA’s resources under the program were reportedly being used to destroy “ditch weed”. These are low-THC feral cannabis plants with no recreational value; basically industrial hemp. In 2015, Representative Ted Lieu said the program was a “ridiculous waste of precious federal resources”.

Steven Gothrinet
Steven Gothrinet has been part of the Hemp Gazette in-house reporting team since 2015. Steven's broad interest in cannabis was initially fueled by the realisation of industrial hemp's versatility across multiple sectors. You can contact Steve here.

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