House Passes Budget With Medical Cannabis Protection Amendment

Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment will Protect Patients from AG Sessions until September 

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: After months of debate and continuing resolutions, the House of Representatives has passed its Appropriations package for the fiscal year of 2018. Unlike previous short term measures, this bill will fully fund the government through September 30, 2018. At over 2,200 pages the bill is a massive combination of funding outlays and policy. Due to the hard work of advocates the bill includes the text of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment.

The amendment, which has appeared in previous versions of the annual appropriations bill protects medical cannabis patients and programs from federal interference by the Department of Justice. Due to the recession of the Cole, Ogden, and other memos by Attorney General Sessions, this amendment is the only thing that prevents large-scale federal raids and prosecutions against businesses and individuals complying with state laws. The full text of the amendment is below:

SEC. 538. None of the funds made available under this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to any of the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, or with respect to the District of Columbia, Guam, or Puerto Rico, to prevent any of them from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions lobbied Congress to oppose the re-passage of the amendment. In a letter sent in May 2017, he told Congress:  “I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.”  Sessions has been a vocal adversary of medical cannabis. Patient advocates fear that without the protections granted by the CJS Medical Marijuana Amendment, Session would be able to shut down medical cannabis programs and the patients they serve.

“The inclusion of the CJS Amendment in the House budget shows that Congress knows it must protect medical cannabis patients from AG Sessions and his Department of Justice. We are extremely grateful to the sponsors, Congressman Rohrabacher and Congressman Blumenauer, and the other members that showed leadership on the issue.“said Steph Sherer, Executive Director for Americans for Safe Access. “Now we hope the Senate will feel the same. We are one step closer to knowing patients will now be protected for another year while we work on passing comprehensive legislation like the CARERS ACT.”

Support for the re-passage of the amendment was strong and diverse. In November 2017, 66 members of the House signed on to a letter to Congressional Leadership that expressed the desire to maintain protections for state medical cannabis programs. The letter was signed by 28 Republicans and 38 Democrats.

A similar letter was also sent last year to appropriations leadership signed by Americans for Safe Access, The Michael J. Fox Foundation, US Pain Foundation, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Epilepsy Foundation, Tourette Association of America, National Women’s Health Network, and Realm of Caring.

The bill will now be sent to the Senate and  will be considered under a closed rule, meaning that the time of debate and ability to amend the bill will be limited. While a government shutdown remains possible over other policy provisions in the bill, it is incredibly encouraging to see the provisions of this amendment in the original text of the bill.

The bill also includes several provisions protecting industrial hemp, and a significant number of provisions related to combating the opioid crisis.

 

Federal Cannabis Bills In Political Purgatory

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  While there has been a great deal of anticipation over the past several months in regards to whether the CARERS Act would pass in 2015, some of the latest reports reveal that this legislation, which seeks to legalize medical cannabis at the federal level, has not managed to attract enough bipartisan support to catapult its agenda into the forefront of nationwide reform.

Although a number of Democrats have stepped up in support of the CARERS Act, most recently Senators Charles Schumer of New York and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, the bill simply has not managed to pick up enough Republican supporters to advance it into the next phase of the legislative process.

Unfortunately, this means the proposal is unlikely to be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee until, at the very least, after the August recess. Yet, recent comments made by Chairman Charles Grassley indicating that he wants to “talk to other Republican members” before giving the bill any attention, suggests that it is most likely resting in a limp state of committee limbo, perhaps, indefinitely.

Early last week, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, one of the primary sponsors of the CARERS Act, told Roll Call that it has been difficult to secure a third co-sponsor for the bill, and that none of the Republicans they have met with have agreed to come aboard.

10 Reasons Why Federal Medical Marijuana Prohibition Is about To Go Up In Smoke

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  When I first opened the D.C. office for Americans for Safe Access (ASA) in 2006, to bring representation of medical marijuana patients to our nation’s capitol, I was told by many it was not worth the effort.  A quick skim of the political landscape back then showed we would be facing a steep slope. Sure, twelve states had passed medical marijuana laws and  80% of Americans supported medical cannabis access, but the federal government refused to admit that medical cannabis patients existed.  The talking points from federal agencies were always “there is no such thing as medical marijuana,” and most members of Congress were paralyzed by fears of backlash or were dug into to refer madness.

Flash forward 9 years…(and $500,000, 000 dollars of anti-medical cannabis federal enforcement later) and for the first time, we have comprehensive medical marijuana legislation in both the U.S. House and Senate. The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act (CARERS) Act of 2015 is the most comprehensive piece of federal medical marijuana legislation ever introduced in the U.S. Congress. The bipartisan act is sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and, in the House of Representatives, by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Rep. Don Young (R-AK).

This important bill would remedy the state-federal conflict over medical marijuana law, with far-reaching impacts, including:

  • Allowing state programs to continue without federal interference
  • Moving marijuana out of the Schedule I list
  • Removing CBD from the scheduling
  • Creating access to banking services for legal marijuana businesses
  • Ending the DEA-Imposed NIDA monopoly that blocks research
  • Allowing Veterans Affairs doctors to write recommendations in states that have a medical marijuana program.

Barbara Boxer and Dean Heller Back Federal Legalization Of Medical Marijuana In States That Allow It

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The CARERS Act, which would make the federal ban on marijuana inapplicable to people who comply with state laws allowing medical use of the plant, has attracted a couple of interesting cosponsors since it was introduced last week. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) signed on last Wednesday, and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) joined him yesterday. Both represent states with medical marijuana laws.

Heller, who was known as a moderate when he served as a state legislator and Nevada’s secretary of state, moved right when he represented Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District, then moved left when he ran for the Senate in 2012. Announcing his support for the CARERS Act, he hit themes with appeal on the left and the right. “The time has come for the federal government to stop impeding the doctor-patient relationship in states that have decided their own medical marijuana policies,” he said.

“This bipartisan legislation puts Americans who are suffering first by allowing Nevada’s medical marijuana patients, providers, and businesses that are in compliance with state law to no longer be in violation of federal law and vulnerable to federal prosecution.”