Medical Marijuana Protection Bill is Safe For Now

By Paul Gaita 01/30/18

A measure that stops the DOJ from using funds to go after MMJ patients, producers and caregivers will remain active until February 8th. 

Jeff Sessions

When Donald Trump signed a stopgap measure to keep the government open on January 22, 2018, the move also kept in play imperiled legislative measures threatened by negotiations between combative Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate.

Among these was the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), as well as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, a bill that prevents the Department of Justice from using federal funds to pursue medical cannabis patients, producers and caregivers that are protected by state laws. The bill, which has faced numerous challenges since its initial proposal in 2001, remains active until federal funding again runs its course on February 8.

Introduced in 2001 by the late U.S. Representative Maurice Hinchey (D-New York), the amendment earned a second sponsor in Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California) before failing its first vote; five more attempts to pass the amendment, during which its sponsors changed again with the addition of Rep. Sam Farr (D- California) and prompted a name change to the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment. It passed the House in 2014 as an attachment to the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill, but had to endure two more shut-outs by the Senate before earning its vote in 2015.

Since then, it has taken on another sponsor in Rep. Earl Blumenauer, and renewed several times, most notably by Trump as part of a $1 trillion spending bill signed into law on September 30, 2017—though it was also a target of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who told congressional leaders to not renew the amendment as part of his opposition to marijuana legalization.

Because Rohrabacher-Blumenauer was approved as a budgetary amendment, it must be re-authorized by Congress as part of an existing resolution, or a new appropriations bill. This will require a meeting of the House-Senate conference committee. As High Times explained, this will require the participation of such avowed opponents as Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), who previously refused to allow a vote on the amendment's central issue. Rep. Sessions' refusal will force the bill to be reviewed when the two chambers consider their list of appropriations bills which, as NORML noted, may or may not take place before the stopgap measure runs its course on February 8.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher advised supporters to reach out to their representatives to assure the amendment's passage.

"I expect that during this time period, we will be maneuvering on the cannabis issue and the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment," he said. "So this is a time for people to make sure that they contact their own member of Congress to make sure that they get behind the amendment for the final bill."

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.