Federal Medical Marijuana Protections Likely Extended Into 2017
Medical marijuana patients and the providers who serve them can breathe a little easier, at least until March of next year.
A current law that prevents the Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from interfering with state medical cannabis laws was set to expire next month, but Congressional Republicans are likely to extend the provision — and other lapsing federal funding laws — at least until March 31, 2017.
For the past two fiscal years, the Justice Department and DEA have been unable to spend any money on efforts to impede the implementation of state medical cannabis policies, thanks to strong bipartisan votes in Congress. The resulting provisions — small paragraphs in lengthy funding laws — have been used by medical marijuana dispensaries to have their cases thrown out of federal court.
But the protections are temporary, applying only to specific years’ appropriations bills, and must be re-enacted annually. The current funding bill is set to expire on December 9, but on Thursday it was reported that House and Senate leaders are zeroing in on a plan to pass a short-term extension funding the federal government through next March.
If, as expected, policy riders like the medical marijuana language are included, it means that people following state laws will be protected from federal harassment for at least part of the presidency of Donald Trump. And that could help set the stage for a continuation of the policy on a longer-term basis.