Cannabis Protections Bill Passes U.S. House of Representatives

House Passes Spending Bill with Cannabis Protections for Legalized States
House Passes Spending Bill with Cannabis Protections for Legalized States | Photo by Quick PS on Unsplash

For the second year in a row, the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislative language restricting the Department of Justice (DOJ) from interference in states, territories and tribal lands operating under legal medical and recreational cannabis laws.

The amendment was included as part of the fiscal year 2021 Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill.

Given the Republican led "Do-Nothing" Senate, final passage of the amendment is uncertain.

Introduced by U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and Barbara Lee (D-CA), the amendment was approved 254–163, with 97% of the Democratic caucus and 16% of the Republican caucus voting in favor.

A key protection of the amendment would, for the duration of the government's 2021 fiscal year, prevent the federal government, and particularly the DOJ, from using funds to interfere with state-legal medical or adult use programs and businesses. Protection from the DOJ seems vitally important under the current administration as Attorney General Bill Barr has made no secret of his personal animosity toward the legal cannabis industry.

“The American people are demanding a change to our outdated cannabis laws and I am glad to see my colleagues heeding their calls,” said Blumenauer, founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.

Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., speaks on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives
Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., speaks on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives | Credit:AP

As we work to ultimately end the senseless prohibition of cannabis and the failed war on drugs, these amendments will help ensure the protection of legal state, territory and tribal cannabis programs. 

Representative Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore

Representative Lou Correa (D - CA) , a vocal supporter of marijuana decriminalization and reform, was quick to congratulate his colleague.

Cannabis Protections for Banking, Higher Education & State Rights

Here is a brief look look at the cannabis protections provided by the amendment.

1. Financial Services and General Government

Prohibits penalizing financial institutions solely because they provide services to companies or individuals "that participate in any business or organized activity that involves handling hemp, hemp-derived cannabidiol products, other hemp-derived cannabidiol products, marijuana, marijuana products, or marijuana proceeds, and engages in such activity pursuant to a law established by a State, political subdivision of a State, or Indian Tribe.”

2. Labor-HHS-Education

None of the funds made available under this Act may be used by the DOJ to prevent any state "from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana.”

3. Commerce-Justice -Science

“None of the funds appropriated by this title for the Department of Education shall be withheld from an institution of higher education solely because that institution is conducting or preparing to conduct research on marijuana.”

Cannabis Legalization Bill in September?

In other potential legislative action, multiple sources have stated that the House of Representatives is looking to vote on a comprehensive federal cannabis legalization bill in September, per Marijuana Moment.

The proposed bill, named the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (the MORE Act), originally introduced last year, would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and fund programs designed to repair the damage of the war on drugs.

Stay tuned.

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