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The momentum for cannabis reform in Congress continues to grow, as demonstrated by a very significant vote today in the House.

Today the House Appropriations Committee voted to approve a provision that provides continued protection from federal interference for states that have legalized medical cannabis.

The amendment bars the Department of Justice from using funds for going after people involved in medical cannabis programs and businesses in states that have passed medical cannabis measures.

But while the protections are similar, the process through which the protections were added to the legislation was different, which is a very big deal.

Why today's House vote is so significant

An amendment previously known as the Farr-Rohrabacher amendment and then known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment has been in effect since 2014 which provided the same protections as the rider that was passed today.

However, in the past, the amendment was inserted into the appropriations bill on the floor of the House rather than via the committee process.

Today's vote is different in that the amendment was included much earlier in the process, which combined with the House Appropriations Committee being such a powerful committee, makes the vote really historic and helps ensure its passage.

It hopefully also builds momentum for other pro-cannabis measures to follow the same path.

The amendment will now go before the House for a full vote. If passed it would apply to the Department of Justice's Fiscal Year 2019 budget.

Unfortunately, the amendment does not apply to adult-use cannabis, only medical cannabis.

Cannabis activists react to the vote

Reaction to the vote today was positive and swift:

  • “Today marks a victory for medical marijuana programs and a loss for Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Passage of this amendment through regular order in the appropriations committee represents another big step in the normalization of state level marijuana reform in the Congress of the United States,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal
  • “By adding this important provision in committee, members have ensured it will not get blocked like it did last year. We commend Rep. Joyce and his colleagues for taking this step to protect state medical marijuana laws. Hopefully this is a sign that members of both parties are ready to take meaningful action on this subject and move our country toward a more sensible approach to marijuana policy — one that respects states’ rights and reduces wasteful spending while allowing seriously ill people to access medical marijuana if it will improve their quality of life.” said Don Murphy, director of conservative outreach for the Marijuana Policy Project
  • “With 9-in-10 Americans supporting medical cannabis, it’s great to see that protecting legal providers has finally become a non-issue in Congress,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “Now, it’s time for Congress to expand these protections by preventing federal overreach in all state cannabis laws, including those that allow responsible adult use and have successfully replaced criminal markets with thriving, regulated industries.” 

How to help extend protections to the entire cannabis industry

Some cannabis advocates have speculated that the protections for medical cannabis may extend to the adult-use industry in some instances.

In some states, medical cannabis and adult-use cannabis are both produced and sold via the same cultivators and retailers.

So for instance, if a dispensary sells both medical and adult-use cannabis, the protections that prevent the Department of Justice from going after that dispensary because of medical cannabis would indirectly also protect the adult-use side of the entity.

The theory has yet to make its way into a courtroom, and hopefully, it will never be needed. But regardless, cannabis advocates need to do their part and urge their members of Congress to approve specific protections for the adult-use industry.

Support for cannabis reform is at an all-time high, and the Green Flower team is hopeful that if enough members of Congress are contacted that they will get entirely on the right side of history!


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