Crucial medical marijuana protections at the federal level were scheduled to expire on Sept. 30, potentially jeopardizing the therapeutic relief of millions of patients — not to mention putting countless businesses and industry jobs at risk. On a larger note, Sept. 30 would also mark the start of a government shutdown if a budget agreement or extension were not agreed upon and signed by President Trump.
On Friday, the House of Representatives submitted a budget proposal that would raise the debt limit as part of a short-term spending package, effectively postponing the government shutdown from Sept. 30 until at least Dec. 8. President Trump signed the extension later that day.
If no new extension or agreement on the budget for fiscal year 2018 is reached by Dec. 8, the medical marijuana protections would expire and the government would shut down until a new agreement could be reached.
The primary goal of the spending package was to provide $15 billion in additional disaster aid to residents of Texas who had been affected by Hurricane Harvey. The final bill Trump signed was proposed by Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY), passing with enormous bipartisan support by a count of 316-90 votes. The plan from the Democrats was selected by Trump because of its shorter timetable than a competing proposal from Republican lawmakers which hoped to delay budget talks until after the midterm elections in 2018. The emergency relief funds will include $7.4 billion each for both general disaster relief and emergency funds for the Community Development Block Grants, as well as $450 million that is earmarked for the Small Business Administration disaster loan program.
The medical marijuana protections must be renewed annually to ensure agencies like the Drug Enforcement Agency cannot appropriate federal funds for the purpose of cracking down on an industry that is saving lives and helping to diminish the effects of the current opioid epidemic we face as a country.
The protections have always been renewed every year since their original implementation in 2014, however, actions taken last week by the House Rules Committee gave cannabis activists reason to worry.
The Committee blocked Representatives Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA) and Earl Blumenauer from introducing an amendment during 2018 budget talks, making an inclusion of medical marijuana protections seem unlikely before the tight deadline. Now, lawmakers will have until Dec. 8 to hammer out the details of next year’s budget and how the federal government plans to address state medical marijuana laws.
Image courtesy of Allie Beckett