Individuals and businesses operating in the medical cannabis industry have seen ample foes and scrutiny by the federal government. It is not a secret Jeff Sessions is a long standing antagonist of cannabis products and the laws supporting the industry. However, in the past month, the world of medical cannabis has experienced minor victories.
On March 23, 2018, the federal government passed a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill which included an updated version of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, the federal mandate that prohibits the Department of Justice (DOJ) from utilizing funds for Controlled Substances Act (CSA) enforcement in states with a legalized medical cannabis program. This amendment’s fate was uncertain during the legislation process, but keeping it alive was critical to protecting medical cannabis. As a result, medical cannabis growers, processors and patients can rely on their respective state’s medical cannabis program without fear of DOJ prosecution through September 30, 2018.
While the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment limits DOJ enforcement, the protection is limited to medical cannabis, not adult use. Moreover, cannabis will remain as a Schedule I controlled substance under the CSA.
Another industry victory comes in the form of the Marijuana Justice Act. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) were the genesis of this legislation, which proposes to de- schedule cannabis and expunge individual cannabis related criminal records. More recently, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that he will be introducing a bill to de-schedule cannabis. By removing it from the CSA would end cannabis prohibition and allow states to self-regulate in-state cannabis laws without concerns of federal prosecution.
Clearly, nothing is final and de-scheduling cannabis will require a lot more discussions, debates and on-going analysis. However, it is evident the climate in the cannabis industry may be changing and antiquated social stigmas may be fading. In the end, every little victory counts.