Amendment Protection Extension

By Benjie Cooper

IG: @nuglifenews

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The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment was written to prohibit the Justice Department from using federal funds to interfere with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws across the country. The legislation was first introduced and withdrawn by Representative Maurice Hinchey in 2001 as the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, but it did not pass until December 2014 when it was brought to the House Floor for the 8th time.

The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment is plainly written. “None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

When the law first went into effect, the Justice Department’s interpretation of the text was not in-line with the authors’ intentions as the DOJ contended that only state officials were protected from criminal prosecution. Their continued legal action against medicinal cannabis providers prompted protests from representatives Dana Rohrabacher and Sam Farr who wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder calling for the department to stop violating the amendment.

In 2015, US District Court Judge Charles Breyer confirmed the original intent of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, ruling that it protected medical cannabis operations in legal states. He criticized the DOJ for their “counter-intuitive and opportunistic” interpretation, saying that it “defies language and logic,” and “tortures the plain meaning of the statute.”

After its first successful enactment in 2014, the amendment has passed when it’s come up for a vote since. But the most recent continuance of the bill was facilitated when it was included in a short-term spending bill that President Donald Trump signed on December 8 to avoid a government shutdown.

Renamed as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment following Representative Farr’s retirement in January 2017, the same prior protections for medical cannabis states were included in the extension which is set to last until December 22.

In a statement after the House passed the measure, Representative Earl Blumenauer said “While we are pleased that these critical protections will continue, two weeks is not enough certainty for the millions of Americans who rely on medical marijuana for treatment and the businesses who serve them. As Congress works out a long-term funding bill, it must also include these protections. And ultimately, Congress must act to put an end to the cycle of uncertainty and permanently protect state medical marijuana programs, and adult use, from federal interference.”

If a new budget cannot be decided upon, and there is a government shutdown, the amendment and its protections for medical cannabis states would be rendered inactive until a spending resolution is reached.

Due to its consistent strong support in Congress, the amendment is likely to be included when a new budget is agreed upon and passed. But as Blumenauer said, the problem won’t truly be solved until the root of the problem is addressed by Congress.

The protections provided by the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment have proved to be an invaluable shield to the growing majority of states with medicinal cannabis laws, but new legislation initiating the rescheduling of cannabis will be necessary to help finally bring an end to the era of its prohibition once and for all.