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Protection of Medical Cannabis in Legal States Has Bipartisan Support in Congress

Cannabis bud, leaf and american flag with smoke and copyspace - veteran theme medical marijuana concept

Cannabis bud, leaf and american flag image

by Paul Fassa
Health Impact News

An agreement among representatives on both sides of the aisle in the United States House of Representatives has retained the bill that prohibits the Department of Justice (DOJ) from using its allocated funds for DEA interventions in states that allow cannabis for medical purposes.

It was included as part of the House final appropriations budget for the fiscal year 2018, which ends September 30, 2018. The Senate had already handled its protective provision based on the House provision known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, due to the efforts of Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy and his Senate colleagues. (Source) [1]

But the House appropriations committee leaders had delayed the House vote on the amendment by refusing to allow a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives. That and the haggling over the 2018 Spending or Appropriations Bill has had advocates concerned about the future of medical cannabis until now, but only for now.

This is, again, a temporary injunction against the DOJ and its Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) police actions with the “war on drugs.”

62 Congress members from both sides of the aisle have decided to start pushing now for the 2019 inclusion of this protective provision with a letter which included the following:

“We believe that the consistent, bipartisan support for such protections against federal enforcement, combined with the fact that similar language has been in place since December 2014, makes a strong case for including similar language in your base FY 2019 appropriations bill.” (Source) [2]

The DOJ challenged the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment on its first approval in 2014 when it was titled the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment. This was upheld by a Federal Ninth District Court of Appeals Ruling, which serves most of the nation’s western states and Alaska, in 2014. (Source) [3]

Here is the text of that amendment:

SEC. 538. None of the funds made available under this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to any of the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, or with respect to the District of Columbia, Guam, or Puerto Rico, to prevent any of them from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana. [Emphasis added] (Source) [4]

Overcoming AG Sessions’ Obsession with Banning Cannabis Completely

Congressional advocates have had an uphill battle against AG Sessions’ war on cannabis. In addition to his efforts at lobbying Senate and House leaders to not include the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment in their federal spending bills, Sessions added some clout to his message in January of 2018 by rescinding the Cole Memo from the previous administration’s DOJ.

The Cole Memo was written in 2013 by James Cole, who was the Deputy AG during the Obama Administration and his memo set the tone of the Justice Department’s attitude to states which had legalized cannabis use.

The Cole memo advocated leaving state-sanctioned cannabis industries alone as long as they adhered to their own intrastate guidelines and DOJ mandates to prevent the following:

It hasn’t been easy for Congress to overcome Sessions’ crusade against cannabis. Perhaps the House appropriations committee leaders were sympathetic with Sessions’ wishes enough to block the House Floor vote for several months beginning late 2017 to March 2018.

But Congressional advocates of medical cannabis have more than humanitarian reasons for allowing cannabis medically while some states have even gone to allowing adult non-medical marijuana use.

In addition to lowering opioid addictions and deaths, there has been less drug-related crime in those states. More pragmatically, the increased state revenues have increased dramatically by regulating and taxing their states’ cannabis industries and use.

This is revenue that excludes national tax revenues. It’s all for each state and is not subject to the federal government’s mandates of state compliance to gain access to federal funds, as many other programs such as education and Child Protective Services demand.

The Effort for a More Permanent National Solution

Israel, Canada, Mexico, Uruguay, Australia, the Netherlands, Colombia and the Czech Republic have instituted national policies that allow cannabis medically to varying extents. (Source) [8]

Regardless of any current limitations that exist in those nations concerning which diseases are allowed for cannabis treatment, scientific research is opened nationally to advance more uses of cannabis for medical purposes. State by state medical cannabis allowances in the USA maintains the tension between state and federal law agencies and inhibits institutional medical research on cannabis.

Congressional members are stepping up efforts to nationalize cannabis.

The Marijuana Justice Act, introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), would end the federal prohibition on marijuana once and for all, by removing the drug from the DEA’s list of controlled substances entirely.

It was introduced as Senate bill number S. 1689, but thus far is without co-sponsors. Earlier, Senator Bernie Sanders had attempted to introduce a similar bill with similar results. However, a similar version of S. 1689, H.R. 1227 – Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017, was introduced into the House of Representatives by Thomas Garrett (R-Vir) and has 15 House co-sponsors.

More recently, 14 members of Congress have asked to cut funding for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s cannabis eradication program, writing:

Throughout the country, states are increasingly turning away from marijuana prohibition and enacting alternative policies to lower crime rates, free up limited law enforcement resources, and keep drugs out of the hands of children.

Despite both the Cannabis Eradication Program’s proven ineffectiveness and the seismic shift in attitudes on marijuana policy within Congress and across our nation, the DEA continues to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on this program, spending $22 million in 2015 alone.

There is no justification for spending this kind of money on an antiquated program never shown to be effective.

Of course, there is some justification. It puts more non-violent marijuana users into private prisons, which were beginning to be phased out prior to this new administration with stock values plummeting.

After all, the Federal Government spent 639 million dollars on “private prisons.” (Source) [9]

However, with this current administration, stock values have now soared, especially after a memo from Jeff Sessions declaring the need for more private prisons.

Also, Big Pharma could lose billions in revenue as its medical monopoly with ineffective toxic synthetic drugs erodes as more discover the medical miracles of the cannabis plant.

See:

Big Pharma Stands to Lose $18.5 BILLION if Marijuana is Legalized Nationally: Is this Why the Current Administration is Attempting to Halt the Progress of Medical Cannabis? [10]

Medical Marijuana Documentary – The Benefits and Uses of Medical Marijuana