The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, also known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, has been protecting medical marijuana since 2014 by removing funds from the justice department to file charges against state legal medical marijuana businesses and patients. Since marijuana is federally illegal, U.S. attorneys could file charges against any marijuana business or consumer so some finesse is needed to protect states that have legalized cannabis. An improved marijuana protection amendment failed to make it to the vote for the spending bill this week though.
The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment does nothing to protect state legal recreational marijuana businesses, so Colorado Rep. Jared Polis introduced the McClintock-Polis amendment that would remove funding for the justice department to file charges against any state legal marijuana business. However, Mr. Polis pulled the amendment from consideration earlier this week without enough support for it to pass and to try and help avoid a government shutdown.
Amidst an impassioned debate in the House Rules Committee, Polis opted to withdraw the amendment instead of forcing a vote that he likely would have lost due to the panel’s partisan makeup and tendency to decide along party lines. As a result, the measure will not be considered by the full House this week as part of legislation to fund federal agencies and avoid a government shutdown by a Friday deadline.
“I, as probably everybody in this rooms knows, have a strong opinion on drugs, illegal drugs, alcohol,” committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX), who has blocked numerous cannabis amendments from advancing in recent years, said during the debate. “Marijuana is an addictive product, and the merchants of addiction make it that way. They make it for addiction. They make it to where our people, our young people, become addicted to marijuana and keep going.”
Polis argued that his amendment “says nothing about whether you or I think marijuana should be legal or illegal. It simply respects the reality of the named states that have moved to regulate marijuana.”
A government shutdown is sort of scary because while most government agencies are not functioning during a shutdown, the justice department is one of the few departments that remains open. It techincally creates an opening for Jeff Sessions to file charges against any state legal marijuana business. What are the chances that the government does not get shutdown?
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