Although U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions may have some sort of evil plan to unleash a federal crackdown on the legal cannabis trade, his sabotage tactics can no longer have anything to do with medical marijuana – at least not until this fall.
Over the weekend, Congress passed a temporary rider, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which was drafted to prevent the Justice Department from spending tax dollars to harass the medical marijuana community. The protections detailed in this massive $1 trillion spending bill states that NONE of the money made available to the Department of Justice can be used to “prevent any [states] from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”
Congress has renewed the amendment every year since it was first approved in 2014.
In the beginning, however, there was a great deal of controversy surrounding its language. The Justice Department claimed Rohrabacher-Farr only stopped the government from interfering with a state’s will to legalize medical marijuana, while legal experts argued that the rider actually covers the entire scope of the medicinal cannabis trade – businesses and patients.
A federal court was eventually forced to step in to provide clarification, ruling that the Justice Department couldn’t prosecute medical marijuana cases as long as no state laws were broken.
Unfortunately, the amendment does not offer the recreational sector the same protections.
This means it is still possible that Trump’s Justice Department could set their sights on the eight states and the District of Columbia that have made marijuana fully legal.
But whether Attorney General Sessions will give that order remains to be seen. Last week, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper told CNBC’s “Meet The Press” that, during a recent meeting with Sessions, the Attorney General didn’t give him any reason to “think that he is going to come down and suddenly try to put everyone out of business.”
But he could, which is part of the reason federal lawmakers would like to see Congress eliminate the temporary protections and pass a clear-cut law that eliminates any possibility of a crackdown.
“This annual challenge must end. We need permanent protections for state-legal medical marijuana programs, as well as adult-use,” Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon told The Denver Channel.
The Rohrabacher-Farr protections will remain in effect until September 2017. At that point, the amendment will need to be renewed for inclusion in the next federal budget.