After a brief government shutdown last month, which lasted several hours, Congress passed yet another temporary spending bill that will keep medical marijuana patients and providers safe—for a little while longer.
In place since 2014, the amendment maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.” Without these protections, medicinal cannabis cultivators and dispensaries face the pending threat of federal enforcement of national prohibition.
This current deal is set to expire on March 23, 2018. Congress must pass another spending bill before then in order to continue keeping state medical marijuana programs safe. If another government shutdown occurs, there will be nothing to stop federal prosecutors from targeting medical marijuana programs throughout the nation.
However, supportive lawmakers are using the temporary reprieves to push for even more comprehensive protections, such as amendments that would extend protections to businesses in the adult-use market. Last July, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) offered identical language before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which approved it. Alas, House Rules Committee Chair Peter Sessions (R-TX) has refused to allow House members to vote on similar language. The provision will now be looked into by House and Senate leadership when the two chambers’ appropriations bills are reconciled should Congress ever set an FY18 budget.