On Thursday, a key congressional committee voted in favor of the continued protection of “lawful state MMJ programs from federal interference or prosecution.” The amendment was brought up by Ohio Republican and former prosecutor, Representative David Joyce. These protections will keep federal funds from being used to prosecute business who comply with their state’s MMJ laws from interfering with medical marijuana programs legalized at the state level.
Formerly known as both the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment and the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, this measure is the first of its kind being added to the appropriations bill during the committee. It’s important to note that the amendment’s protections only extend to medical marijuana, not recreational. The amendment is sure to take a load of concern off the shoulders of those involved with medical marijuana programs. These law-abiding citizens that are in full accordance with the laws of their state still had to regularly fear prosecution at the federal level. This amendment helps to provide them with some peace of mind and protection.
The approval of this amendment could also mean big things for the marijuana industry as a whole. For starters, it shows the growing support for marijuana in DC. This could help to get legislation passed and potentially speed up nationwide legalization. Even Republican officials, traditionally known for strongly opposing the legalization of marijuana, are going to bat for medical marijuana programs, protecting them from federal interference or prosecution.
A recent poll conducted by Quinnipiac University showed that 93% of voters support marijuana being legal for medical purposes. Congressional support for the legalization of marijuana, then, is merely mirroring the voters’ beliefs and wants. The committee took a voice vote to pass this amendment, and some think it’s due to appearance. According to MPP’s Don Murphy, opponents of the amendment were afraid of being seen as opponents of “sick patients and states’ rights.”
Even though the measure has been in place since 2014, it’s a challenge to renew it each time it expires. This is because it has only been passed as an amendment, not a more permanent law. The most recent amendment will only remain in effect until September, at which point it will need to be approved again to maintain the protection.
This protection is crucial to the success of the medical marijuana industry. Less and less quality business owners are going to want to get involved in the industry with a threat of federal prosecution looming over their heads. This amendment helps to ensure that the decision for medical marijuana remains at the discretion of the states without federal interference. Without this amendment in place, federal officers can start prosecuting those running dispensaries or clinics involved with medical marijuana, despite their close adherence to state law. From here, proponents want to turn the amendment into a more permanent law and have it extended to cover recreational use as well.