This week, Congress finally passed a spending bill that will fund the government until the end of September. The omnibus spending package includes the Leahy amendment, formerly known as Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, that establishes protections for medical marijuana businesses and patients. The amendment prohibits the Department of Justice from using taxes to fund law enforcement efforts in states that recognize legal medical cannabis.
Medical Marijuana Protections
Now that Congress has approved the spending bill, these protections will allow the medical marijuana market to thrive without fearing shutdown in the months to come. This move is in direct response to Attorney General Jeff Sessions decision to rescind the Cole Memo earlier this year.
Unfortunately the new spending bill will prevent the federal government from taxing recreational marijuana or creating federal regulations for the adult-use market. This will remove any motivation from the federal government to change the status of cannabis from schedule I drug. While this is certainly still a small victory for state with legal medical marijuana laws, it is only a temporary solve for a much bigger problem.
Expanding Protections for 2019
While the current spending bill is set to expire by the end of September, many are hoping to see an appropriations bill for 2019 expand the protections for the cannabis industry. One of the major goals of pro-cannabis lobby in Washington is to pass a banking amendment that would protect financial institutions that want to do provide services for marijuana related businesses.
A letter drafted by 59 bipartisan House Representatives declared that, “The issue at hand is whether the federal government’s marijuana policy violates the principles of federalism and the Tenth Amendment. Consistent with those principles, we believe that states ought to retain jurisdiction over most criminal justice matters within their borders. This is how the Founders intended our system to function.”
Medical Marijuana for Veterans
Another issue with the current spending package is that it still prevents Veteran Affairs physicians from prescribing medical marijuana for military veterans. Studies have shown that cannabis has been very effective at treating PTSD and even though Senate Appropriations Committee approved language that would allow such prescriptions, it failed to be included in the new spending bill.
Despite President Trump’s threats to veto the bill earlier today, the bill was signed and will take effect immediately. The National Cannabis Industry Association is working hard to create meaningful change in Washington and is always seeking more supporters. If your interested in helping, register for NCIA’s 8th Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days in May.