Despite the recent medical marijuana protections renewed by Congress and tucked inside a large $1 trillion federal spending bill, there is apparently the possibility that two states with medicinal cannabis laws on the books might not be safe from a federal crackdown if the Justice Department makes the decision to unleash the dogs on legal weed.
A report from U.S. News & World Report shows that, somehow, a number of medical marijuana states, including Indiana and North Dakota, were left off the latest version of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment when the House and Senate approved it last week. There is now speculation that this mysterious omission could provide a window for U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to bring down the heat in those jurisdictions.
"I think it is concerning that North Dakota’s brand-new law might be treated differently as a result of this," said Tim Purdon, a former U.S. attorney for North Dakota. “You just hope DOJ and folks wouldn't take advantage of what appears to be a mistake or some kind of loophole.”
It is conceivable that these states were simply forgotten in the updated amendment because they are the last jurisdictions anyone thinks of when it comes to listing places where medical marijuana is legal in the United States. They are invisible success stories, so to speak.
While North Dakota was making its push last year to pass a voter initiative aimed at legalizing a medical marijuana program, the media didn’t seem to even entertain the possibility that the state would come out on top. The campaign attracted very little national publicity -- that is until the initiative, Measure 5, was approved by a miraculous margin of around 64 to 36 percent. But even then, the passing of other marijuana legalization initiatives all over the country overshadowed North Dakota’s big event.
As for Indiana, the state barely has a law on the books deserving of medical marijuana status. The state legislature recently passed a low-THC bill, which was then signed into law by Governor Eric Holcomb, which will allow a small group of patients to gain access to non-intoxicating cannabis oil. And while the passing of a medical marijuana law in the Hoosier State, under most circumstances, would have been celebrated with a great deal of fanfare and strong coverage form the national media, the new law has hardly been mentioned.
Although it might sound a bit ridiculous to suggest that two states were not added to the amendment simply because lawmakers weren’t aware that they had legalized medical marijuana, sources close to the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment believe this theory is distinctly possible.
"It could have been inadvertent, evidence that the legalization movement is so fluid members couldn't keep up," Ken Grubbs, communications director for Representative Dana Rohrabacher, told U.S. News.
So far, the Justice Department has refused to comment on the matter. It is possible that it, too, had absolutely no idea, until now, that the two medical marijuana states were missing from the amendment.
The truth is, the DOJ probably doesn’t even care.
After all, what would be the point in Attorney General Jeff Sessions spending resources, which he has already said he does not have, to go after two measly medical marijuana states while almost 30 others are allowed to go on with their business as usual?
We'll just have to wait and see.