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With Another Government Shutdown Looming, Legislators Push for Cannabis Industry Protections in 2019

America’s current congressional budget stop-gap bill is just days away from expiring, but lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are already looking ahead to protect the pot industry in 2019.

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Federal lawmakers from both houses sides of the aisle are unifying their voices in support of state rights and legal canna-businesses. As Congress prepares to stand in the way of yet another government shutdown this week, a bipartisan group of legislators is already looking towards potential cannabis protections in 2019.

According to Marijuana Moment, 59 legislators, lead by Representatives Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Jared Polis (D-CO), co-signed a letter sent to the House Appropriations Committee late last week seeking comprehensive protections for both state-legal medical and adult-use marijuana industries in the 2019 fiscal budget.

"We are concerned about the Department of Justice enforcing federal marijuana law in a way that blocks implementation of marijuana reform laws in those states that have passed such reforms," legislators wrote to the House Appropriations Committee on Friday. "The issue at hand is whether the federal government's marijuana policy violates the principles of federalism and the Tenth Amendment. Consistent with those principles, we believe that states ought to retain jurisdiction over most criminal justice matters within their borders. This is how the Founders intended our system to function."

However, while lawmakers are already shifting their sights to Fiscal Year 2019, which begins on October 1st, 2018, the federal government's current budgetary patch is only five days away from expiring, leaving 420-friendly legislators with a slightly more pressing issue before next year's finances come into focus.

It's been nearly six months since the Fiscal Year 2018 budget deadline passed on September 30th of 2017, and in that time congress has seen a one-week-long government shutdown and a number of short-term stop-gap bills. Now, with the working budget set to expire this Friday, March 23rd, Congress will try to pass yet another funding plan, this time attempting to solve the budget for good. But, as legislators prepare to avoid another shutdown, it is not yet clear if that will include federal protections for state-legal cannabis.

Since 2014, every congressional budget has included a rider to prevent federal authorities from enforcing cannabis prohibition laws against medical marijuana providers working in accordance with state law. The provision, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment (eventually renamed the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment), has been included in every temporary spending plan, adding a slim layer of armor against Attorney General Sessions' persistent threats against the country's legal cannabis industry.

According to a new report from Reuters, current Capitol Hill deliberations have centered on the timely topics of gun control and immigration, with no indication whether or not medical marijuana protections will continue for the rest of the year.

To try and make sure that these issues are entirely solved by Fiscal Year 2019, the bipartisan group of federal legislators who petitioned the House Appropriations Committee late last week have expanded their purview past medical marijuana to include all state-legal cannabis business — a significant step considering Sessions' personal ideas about the differences between medical and recreational marijuana use.

It should also be noted that, despite Sessions' decades of reefer madness opinions and year of cannabis industry threats, the Department of Justice has yet to actually pursue any state-legal cannabis operators for breaking federal law. And earlier this month, Sessions told a group of Georgetown University law students that the Department of Justice will not be pursuing small-time marijuana cases. MERRY JANE will follow up on this story as the budget expiration date drawers closer.

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