Washington, DC: Congress Reauthorizes Protection For State Medical Marijuana Programs

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

State-sanctioned medical marijuana and industrial hemp programs are safe for now as Congress has approved spending legislation which the President has signed into law that reauthorizes language protecting those programs. But the President issued a signing statement expressing his personal opposition to the measure, saying that those provisions could interfere with his constitutional authority. Signing statements are often issued by presidents, but they do not carry the weight of law.

Section 537 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017, states that no federal funds may be appropriated to "prevent any [state] from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana." That language is now known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, passed in 2014.

State-sponsored hemp programs were also reauthorized, thanks to a similar amendment.

Both amendments will remain in effect until September 30, 2017; at that time members of Congress will once again need to either reauthorize the language or let the provisions expire.

Forty-six states presently acknowledge the therapeutic use of marijuana and various marijuana-derived products. Thirty states recognize hemp as an industrial crop.

Eight states have legalized the adult recreational use, production, and sale of marijuana. Non-medical, retail marijuana businesses operating in these states are not protected by these amendments and still remain vulnerable to federal interference or prosecution. Members of the Trump administration, such as Sean Spicer and Jeff Sessions, have recently said that the administration was considering engaging in "greater enforcement" of federal anti-marijuana laws in these jurisdictions.