A significant chunk of cannabis news took place in the nation’s capital last week as Congress continues to grapple with the complexities of legalization and medical marijuana programs. Meanwhile, Vermont will create a task force to examine legalization and Texas issued its first medical marijuana license. Find out about this and more in our weekly marijuana legislative roundup.
On Thursday, the extension of an amendment to protect medical marijuana programs from federal law enforcement was signed into law as part of a stopgap federal spending package. The amendment, commonly known as Rohrabacher-Farr, prohibits the use of federal funds to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.” The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment has been included in every federal spending package since 2014, and has been extended three times in 2017. Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote a letter to Congress earlier this year urging lawmakers not to extend the amendment. Under the current extension, the measure is set to expire on December 8.
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On Wednesday, two separate amendments to protect activities relating to medical marijuana were blocked by the House Rules Committee. One amendment, introduced by Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz last week, would have barred the use of federal funds to “prevent or delay the approval of an application, which complies with all applicable requirements, submitted to the Attorney General to possess, distribute, or manufacture a schedule I controlled substance, including marihuana, for the purposes of conducting research, for a substance that is legal for medicinal use pursuant to State law…” The measure was introduced amid reports that the Justice Department had been blocking efforts to increase the number of entities licensed to grow marijuana for medical research. The other amendment would have prohibited federal retribution against banks that do business with state-legal marijuana businesses, and barred the Treasury Department from withdrawing guidelines that permit financial institutions to work with marijuana businesses.
Last week, Governor Phil Scott announced the creation of a commission to study recreational cannabis legalization. The Marijuana Advisory Commission will be tasked with studying recreational marijuana in other states and coming up with a strategy for Vermont to implement legalization. The Commission’s findings will be presented to the Legislature in January 2018. Governor Scott had vetoed a legalization bill passed by the Legislature in May, expressing public health and safety concerns.
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On Friday, the Texas Department of Public Safety issued its first medical marijuana license under the state’s 2015 Compassionate Use Act. Cansortium Texas will be permitted to grow, process, and sell cannabis for licensed medical marijuana patients. Currently, marijuana may only be sold in the form of non-psychoactive extracts to certain children with intractable epilepsy. A bill to create a comprehensive medical marijuana program in Texas failed earlier this year after receiving an unprecedented level of support.