Congress voted Monday to pass a spending bill to fund the federal government through Feb. 8, ending a three-day government shutdown and keeping the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, a key medical marijuana industry protection, intact for three more weeks.
Lawmakers have passed three short-term spending deals since Oct. 1, and the U.S. Senate failed to pass a spending bill Jan. 19 to avert a government shutdown due to Congressional debates over children’s health care and immigration policies. Lawmakers now have until Feb. 8 to reach an agreement and pass a permanent spending bill for 2018 that may or may not include the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer protection.
The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), was first approved in 2014 and prevents the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) from using federal funds to prosecute state-compliant medical marijuana operators in states that have legal cannabis programs. It has been included in every budget deal passed in Congress since its introduction.
In the wake of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ rescission of the federal policy outlined in the Cole Memo and DOJ and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) memos that protected state-legal cannabis businesses and the banks that work with them, lawmakers have introduced several pieces of legislation to secure more permanent protections for the cannabis industry.
U.S. Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and other members of Congress sponsored the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act to apply many of the same statutes found in the Cole Memo; U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Don Young (R-AK) introduced the REFER Act, a similar bill that would prohibit the federal government from spending money on the prosecution of state-legal marijuana businesses; U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) announced legislation that would let states decide how to enforce their own marijuana laws and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker’s (D-NJ) Marijuana Justice Act that would remove cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives.
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