UPDATE, DEC. 22, 5:19 P.M.: In the legislation to fund the government through Jan. 19 that President Trump signed today, the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment remained intact..
“Patients around the country who rely on medical marijuana for treatment–and the businesses that serve them–now have some measure of certainty,” says Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) in a statement. “Our fight, however, continues to maintain these important protections in the next funding bill passed by Congress.”.
ORIGINAL POST, DEC. 21, 8:35 A.M.: As this story went to press, survival was unclear for legislation co-sponsored by Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-Other End of Putin’s Peace Pipe) that prevents Attorney General Jeff “Buzzkill” Sessions from targeting cannabusinesses in states where medical marijuana is legal.
In 2001, Representative Maurice Hinchey (D-New York) first introduced a bill to stop the Justice Department from prosecuting patients and dispensaries where medical marijuana is legal. Two years later, a co-sponsor came onboard with the Rohrabacher-Hinchey Act, although the New Yorker never saw it pass before his 2013 retirement from Congress. (He passed away in November.)
With new sponsor Representative Sam Farr (D-Carmel), the Rohrabacher-Farr Act was finally approved as a budget amendment in 2014 with 170 Democrats and 149 Republicans in favor. But because it’s an amendment, Congress must re-authorize it annually, and so far, it has survived every vote. The legislation currently protects the 29 states, plus the District of Columbia, that have legalized medical marijuana.
Farr retired from Congress in January, and trouble for what is now known as Rohrabacher-Blumenauer (after co-sponsoring Oregon Democratic Representative Earl Blumenauer) came with Sessions’ confirmation as AG in February. Having as a senator supported the death penalty for all drug traffickers, including pot dealers, the Southern pixie has repeatedly said cannabis is only slightly less dangerous than heroin.
Writing about Rohrabacher-Blumenauer in a May letter to lawmakers, Sessions called it “unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic.” Then, in September, House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican who is not related to the AG but is also anti-cannabis, blocked a vote on Rohrabacher-Blumenauer. That left it intact only through a Dec. 8 deadline for Congress to pass a new spending bill for the next year, which was later pushed back to Dec. 22.
Some deem it foolish for Jeff Sessions to take on medical marijuana, which one poll found 94 percent of Americans supporting. Heck, legalization of recreational cannabis was favored by nearly two-thirds in an October Gallup poll, the highest support on record in almost five decades.
Rohrabacher told Newsweek that same month that prosecuting something so widely supported is inefficient use of Department of Justice resources, adding, “That’s the sign of . . . someone who is adamant beyond reason to this issue.”
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Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.