Yesterday, U.S. Congress did precisely what medical marijuana users across America feared it would do after Attorney General Jeff Sessions first indicated that he would go after the cannabis industry.
After pressure from anti-pot crusaders in the White House and a failed request from Sessions to have it struck down earlier this summer, the House Rules Committee rejected the only legal protection for states with medical cannabis at a federal budget meeting.
An amendment to the federal budget in 2014 allowed the cultivation, sale, and consumption of cannabis in states with a legal medical framework to continue without interference from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The amendment froze the amount of money the agency could spend on what is still federally considered a Schedule 1 drug by the United States Controlled Substances Act.
It didn’t overturn federal prohibition of cannabis in the U.S., but it did prevent the DEA from enforcing cannabis prohibition in any of the 21 states where medical cannabis was legal at the time.
Today, the number of states sits at 30, and the latest numbers from a Washington, D.C.-based lobby group estimates that there are 2,354,403 state-legal medical cannabis patients across the United States.
Each amendment to the budget needs to be renewed annually, and its clear Sessions’ second attempt to have it removed proved to be productive. (The Senate Appropriations Committee denied his first request in July.)
Without the amendment, dispensary owners and operators, budtenders, doctors, cannabis users and others in the space could face federal charges for both current and past activity.
We can assume that all involved are hoping that, with support from Senators Cory Booker, Rand Paul, Bernie Sanders, and Mike Lee, among others, the protection could be added back into the budget when it reaches the Senate.