Legislation to Protect State Cannabis Laws Stay in Effect Until Feb. 8

Screen Shot 2018 01 23 at 11.23.30 AM
Screen Shot 2018 01 23 at 11.23.30 AM

The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, a piece of legislation that defunds the Department of Justice from pursuing individuals or businesses abiding by state laws, remains intact for now but is tied to the ongoing Congressional budget fight.

Washington D.C.- As the saga of funding our government continues to play out on Capitol Hill, many are becoming weary over a Congress that governs by crisis. While DACA recipients, federal workers, and military members stand to lose when the government shuts its doors, the marijuana industry’s future is also tied to these budget negotiations.

Since Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo, an Obama era directive that instructed U.S. Attorneys to refrain from prosecuting cannabis businesses abiding by state laws, the cannabis industry has been on edge. But there is one last line of defense to keep federal authorities away from cannabis businesses in compliance with state laws.


The only problem is this protection may only be around for another two weeks. The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment defunds the Department of Justice from prosecuting cannabis businesses abiding by state law. Unfortunately, it is a budget amendment and must be approved with each Congressional budget. In theory, this should give the cannabis industry a chance to breathe a sigh of relief. But with constant short-term temporary budgets, it turns each negotiation into an anxiety-ridden debate for the cannabis industry.

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) is hoping to change this dynamic.

“I expect that during this time period, we will be maneuvering on the cannabis issue and the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment,” Rohrabacher told Leafly as the spending bill was being finalized. “So this is a time for people to make sure that they contact their own member of Congress to make sure that they get behind the amendment for the final bill.”

Like most Americans, Rohrabacher would like to see the federal government avoid contentious budget debates every few weeks or months.

“I hope that we come up with an omnibus bill that will include an appropriations bill for the Department of Justice. At that point, then we are safe for eight or nine months. Then hopefully during those eight or nine months, we will pass a regular piece of legislation that will prevent us from jumping through all of these hoops every year.”

Rohrabacher has been pushing to keep federal agents out of state law when it comes to marijuana.

“That bill would be putting into law the idea that the states will be the ones that will make the decision, and everybody, not just the Department of Justice, but everybody, like the banking regulators and other regulators, will then have to deal with the cannabis issue just the way they would with any other commodity throughout the states that have designated it that way,” Rohrabacher told Leafly.

Last year, he introduced the “Respect State Marijuana Laws of 2017.” Currently, the bill has bi-partisan support with 40 co-sponsors. Momentum seems for the bill seems to be picking up, perhaps due to Sessions’ move to rescind the Cole Memo. Since the start of the new year, 16 new co-sponsors have come out in support of the Rohrabacher bill.