The republican-led House Rules Committee recently blocked protections for MMJ patients and banks that want to serve state-legal cannabusinesses. Known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, the now axed legislation was attached to a spending bill. The proposed edits prevent the Justice Department from using its budget to prosecute state-legal businesses. But all that flew out the window when the committee refused to allow a vote.
There are also a number of other proposals that were rejected. According to reports by The Hill, GOP leadership cut the proposal because “it splits the conference too much so we’re not going to have a vote on it.” But history shows that previous versions of the medical protections have passed with wide margins in the House. However, those protections expire at the end of September.
Despite several days of intense lobbying by California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R), the longtime champion of patient rights was unsuccessful. She couldn’t rally enough support to protect the legislation from the religious zealotry of Jeff Sessions. Despite repeated assertions by Donald Trump that marijuana should be a state issue, the Attorney General continues his crusade.
And I’m not being cute here. If Sessions had his way, he would end cannabis consumption entirely. And Sessions belief that “good people don’t smoke marijuana” is well-documented. As is his passion for prosecuting stoners and minorities.
It wasn’t long ago that Sessions sent a letter to the DOJ directing prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious and readily provable offense” for cannabis users. But it isn’t just a bunch of stoners getting shafted by Sessions. Even the DEA is mad at Sessions for actively preventing them from researching cannabis. So it comes as no surprise that many in the community are depressed.
Luckily for those of us who understand the science behind cannabis use, one man’s opinion isn’t the only thing that matters. There are a total of 13 members of the House Rules Committee. It just sucks when a handful of people with no stake in the outcome decide to obliterate millions of jobs, waste billions of tax dollars on incarceration and actively cause unneeded suffering.
But not all cannabis reform was banned from voting though. Three amendments on banking were offered to the committee. Sponsored by Dennis “Denny” Heck, D-Washington, they would have allowed for marijuana businesses to access banking services. It would have accomplished this by prohibiting the punishment of financial institutions that serve licensed marijuana businesses.
The legislation could also prevent the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network from rescinding its guidance for banks that work with marijuana firms. Unfortunately, the measures were rejected on an 8-5 vote. Although in this age of partisan politics was that the four Democrats on the committee joined by Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse of Washington.
Rohrabacher also delivered an impassioned pitch to his colleagues on the House floor on Tuesday night. He claimed that without the amendment, “we’re changing the status quo in a way that undermines the rights of the states and the people”. Yet despite the long hours and passion, the decision to scrap cannabis protections was made without a vote.
In addition to blocking the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, Rep. Pete Sessions and the Rule Committee also blocked several other amendments from even being considered. These measures also would have improved the state-legal cannabis environment. Another proposal that was cut was to prohibit federal funds from being used to penalize banks for serving legitimate marijuana businesses.
The Rules committee also blocked several other cannabis related proposals. The additional blocked measures would protect state-run hemp programs, ease restrictions on scientific research, allow the District of Columbia to implement adult-use and protect the states where cannabis use is legal. Because these proposals were blocked, there is little chance for voting on them in the foreseeable future.
While Wednesdays action was a setback, it doesn’t mean the end of cannabis. The Senate appropriations bill that was approved in July contains the same MMJ protections as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment. But the current legislation is still getting hammered out in a House-Senate reconciliation committee. That also means the language or protections can still change.
Many were devastated by the House Rules Committee decision. Don Murphy, the Marijuana Policy Project director of conservative outreach said that, “Unless Congress chooses the Senate budget version, millions of seriously ill patients and the legitimate businesses that provide them with safe access to their medicine will be at risk of prosecution,” He continued by saying “This vote is a slap in the face of patients, their families, their elected representatives, and the 10th Amendment.”
While this setback will have long-reaching consequences for millions of people, the legalization movement will continue. There are also bound to be more blind corners and rough patches on the road to full legalization. But those of us that can see the light at the end of the tunnel realize that there is a lot more tunnel ahead of us.
House Rules Committee members:
Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas (chair)
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma (vice-chair)
Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Georgia
Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Georgia
Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama
Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Washington
Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colorado
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming
Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-New York (ranking minority member)
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts
Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Florida
Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colorado