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New Federal Spending Bill Includes Medical Marijuana Protections

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director March 21, 2018

    Marijuana medicineUpdate: The omnibus passed the House of Representatives on Thursday.

    Update #2: The omnibus passed the Senate and was signed into law on Friday, 3/23/18.

    As part of the newly proposed appropriations package known as an omnibus bill, a spending restriction upon the Department of Justice from prosecuting state-legal medical marijuana programs will remain in place through the end of September.

    Known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, it explicitly states that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

    The amendment has been in place since 2014, as part of annual spending bills. Because the provision was initially approved as a budgetary amendment, it must be explicitly re-authorized by Congress as part of either a continuing resolution or a new fiscal year appropriations bill in order to maintain in effect.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants nothing more than to see these protections go away. In a letter he sent to Congressional leadership last year, he wrote: “I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of a historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.”

    In the past month, NORML has worked with Representatives Rohrabacher and Blumenauer in recruiting 60 additional members of Congress to co-sign a letter of their own to Congressional leadership, which states, “We respectfully request that you include language barring the Department of Justice from prosecuting those who comply with their state’s medical marijuana laws. We believe such a policy is not only consistent with the wishes of a bipartisan majority of the members of the House, but also with the wishes of the American people.”

    Last year, the language was initially included as part of a Senate appropriations bill thanks to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) yet was absent from the House’s funding proposal because House Rules Committee Chair Peter Sessions (R-TX) refused to allow House members to vote on it. As a result, it was left to House and Senate leadership to ultimately decide on the amendment’s fate when the two chambers’ appropriations bills were reconciled.

    In the past two days as the negotiations reached their peak, over 10,000 members of NORML contacted their federal officials to urge them to maintain these protections.

    Additional language was stripped from the Senate version of the bill, known as the Veterans Equal Access amendment. Originally passed last year in the Senate appropriations committee by a vote of 24-7, Republican Congressional leadership thought it prudent to deny American military veterans the ability to participate in state-lawful medical marijuana programs through their VA doctors.

    Rep. Earl Blumenauer, namesake on the amendment and the co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus said “While I’m glad that our medical marijuana protections are included, there is nothing to celebrate since Congress only maintained the status quo. These protections have been law since 2014. This matter should be settled once and for all. Poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans, across every party, strongly favor the right to use medical marijuana.”

    He continued, “Instead, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is doubling down on the failed War on Drugs and Republican leadership in Congress—led by Chairman Pete Sessions—is stonewalling. They’re ignoring the will of the American people by blocking protections for state adult-use laws and cannabis banking. They even refused our veterans access to lifesaving medicine.

    The fate of this spending bill has yet to be made clear but is deemed a “must pass” piece of legislation as the federal government is set to shut down on March 23rd at midnight if action is not taken.

    We will keep you posted as this story develops.

    25 responses to “New Federal Spending Bill Includes Medical Marijuana Protections”

    1. Julian says:

      Good work Justin and National NORML!

      Make no mistake, it took old fashioned, face to face citizen lobbying to achieve this Cannabis Network in the House of Representatives.

      I first read the news from Tom Angell:

      https://www.forbes.com/sites/tomangell/2018/03/21/congress-protects-medical-marijuana-from-jeff-sessions-in-new-federal-spending-bill/#35ee38a83575

      But to see that between all the running up and down capitol hill you still got the news out early, I’m impressed. This is a significant victory for NORML and marijuana patients across the United States. The Keebler must be frowning worse than that pic when Trump found out the wicked Elf recused himself…

      • Diane Richey says:

        This would mean the world to me if I could stay in indiana until my mother passes.I can’t afford to go medicate out of town, and coming back home. Each time is to much on me. I need safe access I survive on Cannabis due to Genetic disorders. I want to live more than ever. Thank you

    2. warren says:

      Jeff sessions modern day harry anslinger. blow a stiff wind in this relics face and get rid of it.

    3. Julian says:

      Setting aside the fair argument that Sessions’ recent memo to execute big drug dealers focuses on “excess of 60,000 pounds” of safe and affordable marijuana instead of the legal, lethal synthetics from the real big drug dealers in the pharmaceutical industry…
      https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/attorney-general-sessions-issues-memo-us-attorneys-use-capital-punishment-drug-related
      …And setting aside the irony that the world’s greatest drug cartel IS the DOJ which Attorney General Jeff Sessions leads, (So is Jeff Sessions saying he will execute himself?)
      … the whole question of how we regulate and enforce our international drug policies has been forced into the world’s spotlight:
      https://ipolitics.ca/2018/03/21/withdrawing-from-un-drug-treaties-would-be-detrimental-global-affairs-official/
      As Canada legalizes marijuana this summer, already signing contracts with indigenous growers in Colombia, it turns out they won’t break the three major drug conventions after all… but simply “evolve” them. Uruguay didn’t break any international drug conventions when they legalized, but then they weren’t investing in international trade and commerce for marijuana; they kept their marijuana program domestic and citizen-only.
      What Canada is doing is what they do best; gentle diplomacy: challenging the world to make marijuana an exception to the organized international black market through UN drug convention prohibition evolution.

    4. Sean says:

      It’s no accident that Trump wants hangman drug laws in the US. Trump is trying to apply drug cartel policies in the US. Despite the lip service that he pays about drug cartels, he’s acting like a drug lord with his hangman rhetoric. Follow the money. His 2016 disclosure reports should make him eligible for the penalty that he seeks. https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/03/21/death-penalty-for-drug-dealers-be-careful-what-you-wish-for-president-trump/ Who’s the real drug kingpin here?

      • Julian says:

        Great Article Sean.

        Although it’s not surprising, Trump’s disclosure in his campaign docs to Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline are quite telling of a major drug dealer, aren’t they?

        That reminds me of this 2016 article from Politico:

        https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/05/donald-trump-2016-mob-organized-crime-213910

        Trump built Trump Towers and Trump Plaza using shady firms connected to the mob. When I lived on the East Coast I remember hearing the stories about “starving Pollacks” living in Trump Tower under construction for slave wages. So Trump used immigrant slaves to build his empire of debt, along with buying overpriced concrete from “Fat Tony” Salerno and Paul Castellano of the Genovese and Gambino crime families in NYC.

        Trump is calling for his own execution.

        Mind you this article was published while Trump was still on campaign:

        “The picture shows that Trump’s career has benefited from a decades-long and largely successful effort to limit and deflect law enforcement investigations into his dealings with top mobsters, organized crime associates, labor fixers, corrupt union leaders, con artists and even a one-time drug trafficker whom Trump retained as the head of his personal helicopter service.“

        Trump’s corruption of the Executive branch along with the GOP’s is a story of organized crime like the world has never seen: the Koch’s, Mercers, Sacklers, Putin, Adelson, etc. are all sitting at Trump’s table of Batman villains. And their crimes include distorting and corrupting the Department of Justice such that they would look for any hangman when the criminals in need of the death penatly preside before us more obviously than ever before.

    5. Matt says:

      Kevin Sabet seems pleased about New Hampshire. Disgusting. But this is great news, though!

    6. Matt says:

      and great work, NORML!

    7. Julian says:

      https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/03/21/washingtons-most-powerful-anti-pot-official-is-named-sessions-its-not-who-you-think-217662

      Politico says even though Dallas County “Leans Republican” where most of Pete Sessions’ district resides and where Hillary won by 2 percentage points, that marijuana legalization may be the tipping point for Democrats to win this district. Considering all the damage Pete Sessions continues to inflict on federal marijuana reform progress, that would be a bitter sweet victory for many good, sick people across the Nation.

      While there are 27.5 million Texans, only 1.5 million Republicans and 1 million Democrats voted during the primaries. If only a half a million more Democrats consistantly showed up on election day in the state of Texas we would already have legalized marijuana at the federal level.

      But in the Dallas County district where super-prohibitionist Republican Representative and Chair of the powerful House Rules Committee Pete Session resides, he had less than 1,200 more Republicans come out and vote than Democrats:

      https://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/texas-house-district-32-primary-election

      That’s less than the number of Republicans who voted for his primary opponent. That means if only 1,200 of the Republicans in Dallas County who did not vote for Pete Sessions during the primary stay home, we will be replacing the second biggest current threat to marijuana legalization, Pete Sessions, with a marijuana reforming Democrat this November.

      Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the number one threat to marijuana reform today? Marijuana reforming Democrats who don’t vote.

      • Julian says:

        Out of that link to Politico; I had wondered what Rob Kampia was up to:

        “It doesn’t matter which Democrat wins (In Dallas County against Pete Sessions). Either way, we’re going to un-elect him,” said Rob Kampia, the former executive director of MPP. Kampia’s new venture is the Marijuana Leadership Campaign and its companion Marijuana Leadership PAC. “Our invitation-only launch meeting was held in Dallas,” he told POLITICO Magazine, “and I can safely say we’ll be spending $500,000 on this singular congressional race.”

        I’m not sure about Kampia’s “We’re gonna show them we’re the NRA of marijuana quote,” but I’m glad to see a staunch leader in marijuana legalization focusing on a winnable victory to oust Pete Sessions.

        Kampia, please don’t equate your Marijuana Leadership Campaign to our movement if you wish to be equated with the NRA! Not even remotely! Where was the NRA when a Federal judge decided possession of marijuana with a firearm is a federal felony?
        Especially when March for Our Lives is going to have gun reformers marching along side marijuana reformers tomorrow in our nation’s capitol?
        C’mon Kampia, why not say youre the “New Rules” Chair in town, or the “Schedule 1 Remedy” but not the “NRA” of marijuana reform! We’re trying to replace Pete Sessions with a marijuana reforming Democrat, not rat-fu€k our Democratic Republic by laundering $30 million for the Russians to buy our President!

        • Materia Medica says:

          Perhaps any old saying someday is said against probitionists ideology, NEVER AGAIN! Always stay vigilant about any prohibitionist ideology. Pete Sessions is just one in the wrong place. Every state has many probitionist that are garnering favor.
          We will still have a very long way to go and to protect what has been done to help people. Even with legalization there are policies that still are utilized on the books that hurt people.
          Why becouse they can.

        • YearofAction says:

          @Julian
          Yay to passing the budget with the R-B amendment! We have 6 more months to contact our members of – and candidates for – Congress to reform the federal definition of marijuana to make it uphold our Constitution.

          Based on my reply to your question in the comments of the blog, “Cannabis Access Consistently Linked With Lower Opioid Use: Studies”, an update to the reformed definition of marijuana is proffered for its increased support (e.g. by House Rules Committee Chair Peter Sessions, et.al.). It establishes much better controls than full-on prohibition, while actually benefiting people more than full-on legalization.

          In addition to restoring cannabis commerce by distinguishing marijuana from its precursor cannabis plant to finally defacto de-schedule the plant, restoring and protecting the Ninth and Tenth Amendment rights of real people to grow and use the versatile cannabis plant, precluding the corporate patenting of cannabis varietals, and precluding the corporate marketing of cannabis to entice children to smoke the plant, this update includes a critical phrase from the definition of industrial hemp to presuppose the medical value of the entourage of cannabinoids, and it reinforces the “well regulated militia” aspect of the Second Amendment. Let’s not be equated with the NRA, let’s show them another way.

          The term “marijuana” means all parts of the smoke produced by the combustion of the plant Cannabis sativa L. which is, as are the viable seeds of such plant, prohibited to be grown by or sold by any publicly traded corporation or subsidiary company; and any child, or any person bearing any firearm, is prohibited to inhale such smoke or intake any part of such plant containing more than 0.3% THC by weight, unless prescribed to such child by an authorized medical practitioner.

          • Julian says:

            Here we go again Yearbait… You’re like one of those Russian Matryoshka dolls… but instead of a doll inside a doll you’re a like a never ending puzzle of synthetic marinol pills that never seem to give up a nug of whole plant marijuana!

            The question that you never answer, Yearbait, is “Do you believe people should go to jail for smoking ‘combusted’ marijuana?”

            But you never answer that because you’re a two-bit quasi-prohibtionist trying to rat-fu€k legalization into schedule II for your Big Pharma masters.

            Jeez, I sure have been liking the word “rat-fu€k” lately… what with schedule-II advocates like Roger Stone getting investigated with ties to Russia it’s hard to find a better catch phrase to describe you people. Laundering for Big Pharma and Russian oligarchs, acting like you’re all for marijuana legalization like we can’t figure out COCAINE is on schedule II?

            Dare I ask what villains AREN’T sitting at the money laundering coup that stole our nation? The NRA is tied to Russian money laundering… hell, even Dana Rohrabacher whose on the amendment we’re PRAISING is a Russian spook, but he believes in DEscheduling marijuana reform so we’ll work with what we can!
            Are YOU a Russian spook Yearbait? Please tell me you’re just invested in some patents with GW Pharma or even Insys Therapuetics, our homegrown synthetic brand of terrorists. But not Russia! (Oh Hell, these Big Pharma-cites all have their hands filthy turning rubels into dollars anyway. Then they offer premium stock options to our Congressman and call it a day).

            And did you just try and DEFEND Pete Sessions? Your posts are so purposefully convoluted it feels ridiculous to ask you any legitimate questions.

    8. Hoosier Bud says:

      It’s another step in the right direction, if passed, but It’s a shame that this bill will NOT protect our veterans.

    9. Julian says:

      Whew!

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2018/03/23/trump-threatens-to-veto-omnibus-bill-because-it-does-not-address-daca-recipients/?utm_term=.44010683ba13

      The dumb @$$ signed it, after threatening to veto because he failed to negotiate the wall in for DACA after refusing the deal when Shumer offered it. Can we please have a real President back? This guy can’t negotiate his way out the back door.

    10. Doll says:

      This is the path to legalization. Thats why this lawsuit against Jeff Sessions is moving forward. It has to get the vote in the Supreme Court to legalize, and it will.

      • Julian says:

        You mean the Washington vs Sessions case? Last I read the Plaintiffs were going to appellate court. I haven’t seen which court yet, but these things take time… and getting Congress to turn Blue first might be just the timing we need.

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