The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment protecting medical marijuana initiatives at the state level has survived yet another budget crisis. Early this morning, Congress has passed a $1.3 trillion spending bill comprising multiple budgetary areas, hence its “omnibus” bill designation. This massive bill, with a total of 2,232 pages, passed in the House first on Thursday, then passed in the Senate with a 65-32 vote just after midnight Friday morning to send it to President Trump’s desk, where he had to sign before Saturday in order to avoid the third government shut down this year. President Trump signed the bill this afternoon.
President Trump had indicated via Twitter that he was considering vetoing the bill based on the fact that it doesn’t include anything relating to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, as well as the fact that funding for his infamous Border Wall is not included. (The bill does include $1.6 billion for increased border protections, but falls short of the $25 billion that the White House had requested.) However, just hours after the tweets, President Trump said today that he had signed the “ridiculous” spending bill in order to avoid a government shutdown.
“There are a lot of things I’m unhappy about in this bill,” Trump said in a statement Friday. He also indicated that many people hadn’t read it and that legislators only had hours in which to review the bill before the vote, which are very true statements. Yesterday, Senator Rand Paul (Republican, Kentucky) expressed his frustration with the process, live-tweeting his printing and reading of the omnibus bill, saying in a tweet, “No one has read it. Congress is broken.”
The omnibus bill, for all of its divisive inclusions, does include the infamous Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, also known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which provides critical protections for medical marijuana by preventing the United State Department of Justice (DOJ) from using federal funds to prevent states “from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”
Senator Rand Paul, in his live-tweeting of the perusal of the bill, did tweet in support of the amendment, saying, “Page 240 good news for states [sic] rights: no funds will be spent to prevent any state’s medical marijuana initiatives. Thank you Congr. Rohrbacher [sic].”
Rohrabacher-Blumenauer, which has been included since 2014, has allowed states to proceed without federal interference, providing for the expansion of medical marijuana programs in 29 states, plus Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam. Colorado Senators Michael Bennett (Democrat – Colorado) and Cory Gardner (Republican – Colorado) were among 18 Senators who petitioned the Senate Committee on Appropriations earlier this year to include language that involved increased protection for marijuana, which would have “protect[ed] states’ laws regarding the regulation of marijuana.” The plea by lawmakers came after United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole memo and other memos produced under the Obama administration that shielded states’ with legalized, medically legal, or decriminalized cannabis to operate without federal interference. Sessions rescinded those protections on January 4, 2018. Sessions had previously asked Congress to undo those federal protections, including Rohrabacher-Blumenauer, earlier in 2017.
The full text of the 2014 House amendment reads:
None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.
The Rodman Law Group is pleased that the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment has received such bipartisan support and continues to thrive in the face of an administration, particularly the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which seems committed to undermining the will of the people who have voted to decriminalize or legalize cannabis either recreationally or medically in 29 states plus Washington D.C., Guam, and Puerto Rico. While we are disappointed that other legislative initiatives to decriminalize and legalize marijuana at the federal level have not progressed, we are beyond grateful that legislators have reached across the aisle to work together on continuing the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment and protecting the medical cannabis industry in their states. (Shout out to Colorado Senator Cory Gardner for supporting his constituents despite his personal views. As Coloradans, we thank you.)