Burned Out

House Republicans decide to forego medical marijuana protection in upcoming spending bill

More than half the country may be in trouble come October as an amendment protecting medical marijuana and its patients failed a committee vote earlier this month.

The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, named for California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer, failed a hearing in the House Rules Committee Sept. 7. This is the first time the amendment hasn't been included in the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill since 2014.

"We're changing the status quo in a way that undermines the rights of the states and the people ... to make their policy," Rohrabacher said, according to The Hill.

The decision marks a dangerous possibility for the 29 states and Washington D.C., which have all legalized medical marijuana. Without the protections, which expire Sept. 30, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has federal consent to start going after medical marijuana businesses and patients.

Rohrabacher pleaded with House Republicans the day before the amendment was blocked in the Rules Committee, The Hill reports, but the leadership denied the chance for a vote.

Fellow Republican lawmakers fear including the amendment may jeopardize the passing of the spending bills.

One of Rohrabacher's colleagues, California Rep. Duncan Hunter was skeptical of the House Republicans' decision to not vote on the amendment on the floor.

"After you have 40 states that have legalized adult-use marijuana, it's gonna be really hard for Congress not to wrestle with the issue and keep avoiding it," he told The Hill. "Because that's what we're doing now: We're avoiding the issue."

The failure is yet another example of the Republican Party looking the other way as the Trump administration acts against the interests of the people of this nation.

With a simple nod, the House could have maintained the protections for an industry embedded in 29 states. Instead, they balked at the principle of states rights and decided to give Sessions wide-ranging authority in his crusade.

The absence of the protections allows Sessions to use the full resources of the Justice Department, which could include raids and civil asset forfeiture. While there is no telling how Sessions will approach his crackdown, what matters is that now he can.

Sessions' letter to Congress earlier this year, lobbying for the ability to prosecute the medical marijuana industry, referenced an "historic drug epidemic" referring to the opioid crisis. However, Sessions fails to acknowledge the ways in which marijuana helps reduce opioid dependency.

In his letters to states that have legalized recreational marijuana, Sessions made claims based on questionable data from High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area reports. (During the debate over Prop 205, which would have legalized recreational marijuana in Arizona, we looked over claims by the Rocky Mountain HIDTA and debunked many of their statistics.)

Even the leadership of those states wrote back to Sessions saying his claims were largely unfounded and his belief in the harms of marijuana was uninformed.

But as always, hope is not lost. Blumenauer took to Twitter the day before the committee hearing to declare "This isn't over! As House & Senate finalize funding bill, we will fight for patients & continue critical medical marijuana protections."

He added that the Rules Committee rejected the will of the American people by blocking the amendment.

The latest Quinnipac University poll showed that 73 percent of voters oppose "government enforcement of federal laws against marijuana in states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana," in April.

Furthermore, not a single demographic supported federal enforcement.

The saving grace may be that even the Justice Department doesn't know what to do about medial marijuana since their own committee on the matter failed to produce any recommendation on enforcement. Where this leaves us, only time will tell.

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