The U.S. House Committee on Rules has removed several cannabis-related amendments from a federal appropriations bill. Included among them is the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment. The moves by the GOP-led committee late on Wednesday mean that a number of amendments protecting current and future cannabis laws by states will not get a vote on the House floor.
Of those removed, the most notable are the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment. It bars the Justice Department from using federal funds to sabotage or interfere in any way with existing medical marijuana laws in legal states. Before Republican Sam Farr retired, the amendment was Rohrabacher-Farr. It has been in effect since 2014, when the House voted 219-189 in favor of it.
Then in 2015, the House approved it again by a 242-186 majority vote. Omnibus spending legislation has been extending it ever since, but it is set to expire by this month’s end. Removal of medical marijuana protections from the House bill by the committee does not kill it. The amendment can still make it into legislation laying out annual spending for the federal government.
Late in July, the Senate Appropriations Committee included the amendment into the larger spending bill. When the House version passes, a joint committee will then reconcile it with the Senate version. If approved, Wednesday’s possible short-term funding deal would likely include current Rohrabacher-Farr language and extend its protections at least until the end of the year.
Early on Wednesday, co-sponsors Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, and Jared Polis, D-Colorado, along with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, testified in front of the committee that existing medical cannabis protections are current law, and that public opinion supports medical marijuana regulations in most states. Rohrabacher said, “To deny members of Congress the right to vote, I think, is unconscionable.”
According to Blumenauer: “It would be a tragic mistake to lose the progress that we made.” On offer were three banking amendments, sponsored by Washington Democrat Dennis Heck. Currently, the law bars financial institutions from serving licensed marijuana businesses. The bills would have protected banks from punishment and prevented the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network from retracting its guidelines for financial establishments working with marijuana companies.
It would have given canna-businesses access to legal banking services. However, an 8-5 vote rejected these measures, with only Republican Dan Newhouse of Washington and the committee’s four Democrats voting in favor of amending banking laws. The committee blocked other crucial marijuana-related amendments, as well.
These included additional protection for those conducting research into medical marijuana, which Florida GOP Republican Matt Gaetz sponsored. The committee also removed another amendment, which would permit the District of Columbia to utilize local funding to draft regulations and tax recreational marijuana, which Washington D.C. made legal back in 2014.