Update, Thurs., March 22, 10am PDT: The House has passed the spending measure on a vote of 256-167. The measure now moves on to the Senate.
Seeking to avert another government shutdown at midnight Friday, Congressional leaders on Wednesday struck a deal on a $1.3 trillion spending bill that would keep the federal government open through September.
The spending bill must pass by late Friday night in order to avert a federal government shutdown.
That measure includes the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, which prevents the Department of Justice and its agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, from spending any money to undermine or interfere with state-legal medical cannabis programs.
Last year, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) blocked the medical marijuana protections by refused to allow members of the House Rules Committee, which he chairs, to vote on the amendment. As a result, it was left to individual members of the House and Senate to restore the protections to the spending bill.
Rep. Sessions’ move came after Attorney General Jeff Sessions (no relation) sent a letter to Congressional leaders asking them to remove the medical marijuana protections. The AG’s letter stated: “I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of a historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.”
Still Must Be Passed & Signed
“Glad to see it in,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) said on his Twitter feed on Wednesday evening. “Next time we’ll get more.”
Blumenauer elaborated in a media statement on Thursday morning:
“While I’m glad that our medical marijuana protections are included, there is nothing to celebrate since Congress only maintained the status quo. These protections have been law since 2014. This matter should be settled once and for all. Poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans, across every party, strongly favor the right to use medical marijuana.
“Instead, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is doubling down on the failed War on Drugs and Republican leadership in Congress—led by Chairman Pete Sessions—is stonewalling. They’re ignoring the will of the American people by blocking protections for state adult-use laws and cannabis banking. They even refused our veterans access to lifesaving medicine.
“Republican leadership is hopelessly out of touch, and they should be held accountable. I will not rest until Congress gets this right.”
The White House says President Donald Trump will sign the $1.3 trillion budget bill that boosts military spending, but does not include all the funding he sought for his promised border wall.
White House officials say the plan includes key administration priorities, particularly defense spending. They argue they could not get everything they want because Democratic votes are needed in the closely divided Senate.
Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said the bill was not perfect, but “that’s not how the process works.”
He noted the deal includes at least some money for new construction along the border.
Trump sounded less than enthused by the bill Wednesday night. He tweeted: “Had to waste money on Dem giveaways in order to take care of military pay increase and new equipment.”
The full text of the medical marijuana amendment, as it stands in the current spending bill, appears below.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.