The Senate Appropriations Committee approved legislation that would renew protections for state medical cannabis programs when the current spending budget expires in September. The language, which was introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), prevents the Department of Justice from using any resources to target medical cannabis patients or providers who are in compliance with state laws.
This is the first time that this provision has been included in the original language of the spending bill by either chamber of Congress. Originally added to the federal budget in 2014, this restriction was consistently renewed as an amendment by the Senate or House Appropriations Committees or a continuing resolution in subsequent budgets, most recently in March. Current protections are set to expire on September 30 unless the new spending bill is approved or the current budget is extended.
“Once again, members of Congress have signaled that protecting state-legal medical cannabis is no longer a controversial issue,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “From protecting state medical cannabis programs from being targeted by federal law enforcement to growing support for allowing banks to work with the cannabis industry, lawmakers are increasingly unwilling to waste taxpayer money interfering with legal and responsible cannabis businesses.”
Last month, similar medical cannabis protections were amended to the House Appropriations spending bill in a committee vote.
Cannabis is legal in some form for medical purposes in 46 states. A Quinnipiac University poll released in April showed that 93% of voters support legal access to medical cannabis and 70% oppose enforcing federal marijuana laws in states that have approved cannabis for medical or adult use.