Congress Unveils 2016 Omnibus Spending Bill, Reauthorizes Marijuana Protections

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director December 16, 2015

    CongressMembers of Congress this morning unveiled the 2016 Omnibus Appropriations bill, legislation that is responsible for funding the federal government through the 2016 fiscal year.  While stand alone marijuana related bills rarely gain traction in Congress, the annual omnibus appropriations bill has become a tool for federal lawmakers to pass marijuana related language into annual spending guidelines.

    In last week’s Legislative Round Up, we covered five distinct marijuana provisions that lawmakers sought to include in the final draft of the 2016 spending bill.

    We now know that two of these provisions have been included in the omnibus appropriations bill. One measure prevents the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. The other measure prevents the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state industrial hemp research programs. Both measures were initially passed by Congress in 2015, but required reauthorization to extend into 2016.

    Unfortunately, separate provisions permitting doctors with the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana to military veterans, and to prevent the V.A. from denying services to veterans because they are state recognized medical marijuana patients were eliminated from the final bill. Senate-backed language seeking to authorize financial institutions to engage in relationships with state-licensed marijuana business was also rejected from the final bill.  

    Lastly, language prohibiting the District of Columbia from taxing and selling marijuana was included in the annual spending for the second year in the row. Current law allows for residents to grow, possess and share marijuana. But the sale and promotion will be prohibited for at least another year.

    While we see success in having kept in place protections for state sponsored medical marijuana and hemp programs, it is nonetheless disappointing that members of Congress continue to unnecessarily insert themselves into a doctor-patient relationship with our country’s veterans and continue to deny licensed businesses access to needed banking services.

    No ground has been lost, but Congress should know we’ll be back next year to gain more.

    15 Responses to “Congress Unveils 2016 Omnibus Spending Bill, Reauthorizes Marijuana Protections”

    1. bobwv says:

      Mass murder is addictive. Aren’t cannabis laws weapons of mass destruction of life and property,

    2. TheOracle says:

      Why is it I’m not surprised the prohibitions on DC realizing legal adult recreational are still in there? DC dicks postponed implementation of MMJ there for something like 10 years.

      Here I am in Pennsylvania, a state that has no medical marijuana, not to speak of adult recreational. I keep harping about the fact that the financial shambles the state is in make it ripe to legalize both medical marijuana and adult recreational. Last time I checked Pennsylvania was about 50-50 split on legalizing adult recreational, and was about 88% in favor of legalizing MMJ. So far neither has happened, so I guess Speaker Mike Turzai bawling his ass off against legal MMJ does the trick. All you have to do is have the Speaker cry his crocodile tears against any kind of marijuana legalization whatsoever, and poof, the legislation is off the table.

      The state is long overdue on passing a budget. It needs a new steady source of revenue, but the suggested tax on the extraction of Marcellus Shale isn’t happening.

      Schools are going to stay closed after the holidays for lack of funding and loans.

      I’m figuring the more extreme the budget crisis becomes, the more the public will accept legal adult recreational. I mean, some state has to be the first whose legislature legalizes both MMJ and adult recreational, so why not Pennsylvania?

      • Johannes says:

        I agree. All the money spend on curbing Cannabis could be better spend somewhere else. I feel Nicotine is much more harmful to you than Cannabis which actually have some health benefits as well.

    3. Julian says:

      Stunning, in light of all the ongoing FDA-research from Dr. Sisley with %75 medical efficacy for whole-plant cannabis/marijuana to treat PTSD and help prevent the 17 US soldiers who commit suicide per day to be shot down by this Congress.
      Can we get a roll call please?
      Donate to NORML PAC today so we CAN show who voted for and against our veterans!

    4. Thomas says:

      As a veteran I see the need every day. I wonder if marijuana users will ever have representation in the elite only club, better known as government.

    5. Todd says:

      It is very cold how Congress is treating our veterans, and so it affects everybody.

    6. Song says:

      There’s a bunch of Veterans in California working in the cannabis industry trying to make a difference in the lives of veterans.

      We’ll keep working until all our brothers and sisters can get off the pills.

    7. bj case says:

      Why ,when it is Only a mater of Time, do they let the ppl suffer ! The ptsd ,the cancer, the ms , all the 9pl that could be helped and l8ves that could br saved. , IT IS GENECIDE AGAINST THE WEAK AND SICK !

    8. Mark I. says:

      Insurance industry cohorts allow for premium payment increases to make up for poor performance in providing lifesaving healthcare decisions.

    9. Deborah Stuart says:

      Did Congress reword the bill for not interfering with States that have medical marijuana laws. As it stands the Eastern District frankly doesn’t give a rats ass what Congress says or 538 unless it was reworded many people will still be prosecuted and sent to prison.

    10. Trish Gray says:

      I wish they would just decriminalize mj!! My husband got a ticket for possession. If they were to decriminalize it, he wouldn’t have got the ticket! Come on Missouri!!

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