State medical marijuana laws and their implementation are safe until September 30th of this year. In a highly anticipated move, Congress extended the protections of the well-known “Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment” (the “Amendment”) last week.
This extension is an important political and legal action after Attorney General Jeff Sessions threw the state-legal cannabis industry into a tizzy after rescinding the Obama-era Cole Memo in January (he has provided further, largely unhelpful guidance since then).
But what impact does the Amendment really have? It could be significant over the coming months, though I am confident that Sessions and other U.S. Attorneys may seek to undermine the spirit of that law as time goes on.
The Amendment first passed back in 2014 and has been consistently renewed and extended by Congress in the form of budget riders since then (and this last one is around 2,200 pages). The Amendment has been construed as stopping the federal government from prosecuting state-legal medical cannabis operators, but outside of the Ninth Circuit, it has not been tested.
The Amendment provides that:
None of the funds made available under this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to any of the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, or with respect to the District of Columbia, Guam, or Puerto Rico, to prevent any of them from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.
On its face, the law only precludes the Department of Justice (DOJ) from spending funds to “prevent” any of the