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Now Trump’s ‘Shithole’ Comment Is Affecting Medical Marijuana

January 16, 2018
Trump's comment blew up immigration negotiations, which upended budget talks, which MMJ protections depend on. (Evan VuccI/AP)
President Trump’s “shithole countries” comment last Thursday continued to rock Washington, DC this week. The president’s outburst, made in the midst of negotiations over immigration reform, has affected everything from international relations to medical marijuana.

A deal on DACA is key to the passage of a federal budget. MMJ protections live inside that budget. And Trump's comment blew up the DACA deal.

Yes, medical marijuana. Trump’s comments effectively blew up a fragile deal on DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that affects the immigration status of 800,000 people currently in the United States. The DACA deal was to be the linchpin of the entire federal omnibus budget bill, scheduled for a vote this coming Friday, Jan. 19.

The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, which prevents the Justice Department from prosecuting patients and caregivers in states that have legalized medical marijuana, depends on the passage of that same federal budget. It’s not a standalone law, it’s a spending measure—it prevents the Justice Department from spending any money on medical marijuana prosecutions.

Budget Set to Expire on Jan. 19

Rohrabacher-Blumenauer protections are written into the current federal budget, but that budget runs out of money on Jan. 19. If congressional leaders can’t find agreement and pass a budget, the federal government may face a shutdown similar to the one forced by House Republicans in 2013. Congress has already passed several continuing resolutions, which keep the federal government open at 2017 budget levels, and leaders are considering yet another continuing resolution that would push the issue into late February.

The current protections will remain only as long as a continuing resolution is in place.

Republicans don’t have enough votes to do that without Democratic support. They need at least nine Senate Democrats to vote in favor of any funding measure. And those votes might not be there.

As the Washington Post reported earlier this morning, “GOP leaders are now turning to a short-term funding measure in hopes of keeping agencies open while talks continue, but Democratic leaders say they are unlikely to support any deal that does not protect young illegal immigrants.”

Kicking It Down the Road, Again

If that continuing resolution is adopted, there will be no vote on the amendment itself, which would temporarily remain in place, according to sources in Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s office. The amendment is currently included in the broader funding bill that is currently in effect. It was maintained in December when Congress passed the last continuing resolution to extend the funding bill to January 19.

Currently there’s no consensus between Democrats and Republicans if the January 19 deadline will mean a continuing resolution for just a couple of months, or a longer term deal—perhaps even a yearlong continuing resolution—that funds the government for a year.

“Congressman Blumenauer is working to maintain R-B in whatever funding bill Congress votes on next,” a staffer in Blumenauer’s office wrote in a response to Leafly’s emailed questions. “At this rate, it’s likely that they will do another continuing resolution—though, who really knows.”


Liberty, Jobs, and Freedom: How Cannabis Became a Conservative Issue

Four Years of Protection

For four years, the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment (formerly known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment before Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) retired) has kept patients and the medical cannabis industry in an uneasy but safe space mostly free from federal prosecution.

The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment must be re-authorized with every new federal budget.

Each time Congress has to renew the amendment, patient advocates and industry insiders hold their collective breath and hope for the best.

The vote to continue the amendment, even when passed, hasn’t always gone well. In June, 2015, when Representative Dana Rohrabacher presented the bill for discussion in the House (it passed 242-186 for only the second time in nine tries, with more than twice as many Democrats as Republicans voting for it), there were serious objections from other Congressmen who have yet to temper their beliefs on the issue.

“Let me say, first of all, this whole idea of medical marijuana is a big joke,” Rep. John Fleming (R-LA-04) said at the time (Fleming was recently appointed deputy assistant secretary for Health Information Technology Reform in 2017). “It is an end run around the laws.”

That comment was followed by Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA-06), the chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary: “Statistics show that 78 percent of the 2.4 million people who began using marijuana last year were aged 12 to 20,” he said. “There is little doubt that this drug poses a significant danger to our children, and I urge a ‘no’ vote on this amendment.”

Pete Sessions Blocked the House Version

So there are stalwart enemies fighting against the amendment and, well, anything could happen. Like it did on Sept. 6, 2017.

That was when the U.S. House Committee on Rules, led by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), who is not related to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, blocked a host of marijuana-related amendments from the federal appropriations bill, including the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment. That sent a shockwave through the medical marijuana patient community.

According to an article in The Hill, the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment was reportedly too divisive for the Republican-run House to come to a decision. “What we are doing now is avoiding the issue of legalization,” Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA-50) told The Hill at the time.

The amendment was then renewed on September 8 as part of an emergency aid package, renewed again through some spending bills on December 8 and December 22, leading up to a review and potential renewal on January 19.


House Committee Blocks Medical Marijuana Protections

Cole Memo Move Lit a Fire

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) is confident: “The [loss of the] Cole memo will actually mobilize us to win the day and carry on for at least a year.” (Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Invision/AP)

But even if nothing happens on the budget on January 19, Jeff Sessions’ recent rescission of the Cole memo has energized proponents of the amendment, who now want to expand it and rework it into a sort of de facto legalization law later this year.

During a Jan. 4 press conference about the loss of the Cole memo and its effect on the amendment, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) said that the rescission of the memo doesn’t radically change what he and his colleagues are trying to do.

“We have a commitment to protect and expand the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment,” he said. “There are proposals to expand those protections.”


FAQ: What We Know About Jeff Sessions’ DOJ Action Against Legal Cannabis

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) said the Cole memo “will serve our purposes because it will mobilize us and people around the country who have taken the amendment language for granted.”

“Any continuing resolution will keep it here temporarily,” Rohrabacher added. “But then we need to make sure that it is included in any omnibus bill that will then carry on for about a year. During that year, we need to have a comprehensive bill that says not just medical marijuana, but that the fed government will respect all decisions of the states when it comes to cannabis. If they want to have adult use that is fine.”

“The Cole memo will actually mobilize us to win the day and carry on for at least a year,” Rohrabacher said. “But during the year we will know that we have got to make the fundamental changes, a greater version of this amendment, into public law so it doesn’t have to be replaced every year.”

Strong Senate Support

Blumenauer said that the current version of the amendment has good bipartisan support and is in good shape in the Senate. Although the House did not include the amendment in its omnibus budget proposal, the Senate version of the budget did contain the MMJ protections. The final outcome will be determined in a conference committee charged with reconciling the two versions.

“Congressman Rohrabacher and I are both confident that we are in a very strong position for the amendment to be renewed on the 19th,” Blumenauer said. “We have support in both parties to do this, and that will put a spotlight on it. With that broad bipartisan support and great support in the Senate, hopefully this will enable us allow us to ramp up and expand those protections offered in the amendment.”

Positive Signs in the Past Week

There are growing signs that a shift has taken place in not just the perception of the industry as an economic engine, but in the increased support in Congress and among state legislators.

A bill from Congressman Tom Garrett (R-VA-05) – “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017” – now has 22 cosponsors, with seven signing on since the Cole memo rescission. Vermont just legalized recreational marijuana through state legislature, the first time that has happened and likely setting a precedent for other states to follow.

January 19th probably won’t be the last time that the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment gets extended. But it may be one of the last times it’s presented in its current form, as bipartisan momentum to complete marijuana legalization picks up steam through 2018 and the language of the amendment comes to include protections for recreational marijuana as well as medical – or simply evolves into a standalone bill.

A Flurry of Action on Legalization

That process may have already begun. Just last week, on January 11, an update to the amendment by Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO-02) and Tom McClintock (R-CA-04) proposes to remove the word “medical” from the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, effectively expanding the protections offered by the amendment to all states where recreational marijuana is sold. In a press release, Polis reported that 70 bipartisan members of Congress have signed a letter asking leadership to attach the amendment to the next government funding bill.

On Friday, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced a House bill that would effectively handcuff the federal government from enforcing the nation’s cannabis in states that adopt their own cannabis laws.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-NY) says she’s also working on legislation that would “roll back the changes” made by Sessions undoing of the Cole memo and allow states to “make their own determination about their marijuana laws and how they want to enforce them.”


New Bill in Congress Would Ban Federal Cannabis Enforcement in Legal States

David Hodes's Bio Image

David Hodes

David Hodes is a business and lifestyle writer based in the greater Washington D.C. metropolitan area. He is the former editor of seven different business magazines, and has contributed feature articles to several general business/lifestyle publications as well as a number of national cannabis magazines. He is member of the National Press Club, and deputy booking agent for the National Press Club Headliners Committee.

View David Hodes's articles

  • Etidorhpa

    Donald Trump for president and Pence for vice president 2020, for more reasons than idiots can rationalize .

    • Patrick Borush

      stupid is as stupid does… “Donald Trump for president and Pence for vice president 2020” Some people shouldn’t be allowed to vote or adult as they obviously cant handle it…

      • Black Bird T

        It seems that about once a week I am tempted to unsubscribe from Leafly because of idiotic articles with no basis of fact such as this one.
        It appears that Leafly and the authors of articles on this site are simply one more example of fake media with an extreme left leaning ideology.
        American Citizens who are willing to fight for the legal use of this God given plant aren’t all blinded by this politically motivated nonsense.
        “NOT ALLOW US TO VOTE if we support Trump/Pence in 2020”?
        Now there is a perfect example of leftist tolerance.
        P.S. It’s Cannabis, not marijuana, as most uninformed and detractors like
        to call it!

  • BA5578

    So, all the sudden, the party of Kirsten Gillibrand and Joy Behar are offended by profanity? What convenient timing!

    I’m very encouraged that more Republicans are jumping on board with getting the federal government out of the states’ way. As we’ve seen in recent elections, this is the only way that the demonization and lies surrounding the cannabis plant will end. Big Pharma’s $$ is just too attractive to politicians to admit the truth about the endless list of medical conditions that are helped by this plant.

    Trump and Pence 2020 indeed! But Jeff Sessions has to go…

    • Patrick Borush

      stupid is as stupid does… “Trump and Pence 2020 indeed!” Some people shouldn’t be allowed to vote or adult as they obviously cant handle it…

  • Legalize420

    Thanks for the article.

    If anyone votes trump in 2020 they need to be ostracized from the community. Idc. trumps turning this country into what he calls countries like Haiti, Africa, and other non white based countries.

    The R/B spending act needs to be kept in one form or another. I agree with expansion but I say let’s make sure it passes. I’m glad Warren is doing what she can as she’s been a flip flop in the past. Bush did less than Clinton but Clinton continued the status quo so he wasn’t great himself. Obama did more for people like me than anyone else since Ive been alive but he could have done more but pussied out.

    Anyone who would STILL vote for Donald Duck(I mean trump) is out of touch with reality. I can’t wait to see trump go down in flames in 2020. Trump does not care about people and he’s a ignorant disgrace that’s shamed the seat of president of the US making a mockery of the seat, and bringing the country down with him.

    Trumps not even rational so u can’t say where he stands. He’s lied over 2000 times his first year alone. Hes a joke.

    I am glad to see people being realistic over a safe plant that does indeed bring people together, has almost no negative side effects and has helped so many suffering find need relief.
    If Bernie Sanders or someone similar to him runs again, the people especially those who are now awake that supported trump and the dems who supported Hillary pretty much owe it to him or someone else similar with sensible ideals who cares about the general public and facts and freedom/the constitution and doing what’s best for the people in general and patriotism and against overt federal or government control. Sanders is old yes, but he’s one of the most sensible people we’ve had run as far as caring about free rights and he would never suggest something as ignorant as when a countries in debt to use resources to remove or jail a bunch of people and blatently ignore public opinion as well as try and carry out actions using racist and far fetched ideals. It’s sad there isn’t more outrage but trump does un presidential acts on a almost daily basis. Ron Paul won’t be able to run again sadly but he was a good choice when running as well but as he’s an independent it’ll never happen sadly. I don’t support any parties specifically. I support people who care about freedom for the general public and sensible change for the betterment of society. We need to forget for once about party status and focus on what’s best for the country and the people as a whole.

    All voters who voted for hillary and trump simply need to correct the extreme error in judgement made and vote for people who care about freedom, equality, facts, and truth, and above all the American people who are either rich or poor, US born or otherwise, doesn’t matter.

    @No Warning Shots- if your a vet, regardless of feelings and party status, thanks for what ya did. Vets don’t get treated how they should after they come home and its sad. Because of people like Trump and Sessions and the DEA and every organization that benefits from prohibition, vets are ignored, drugged up by the VA, injured soldiers turned into opiate addicts and many pills given for PTSD don’t help and cause bad side effects leading to horrible terrible results such as suicide. It’s all because people like trump and sessions do not care about reality and people that are suffering. Cannabis use helps struggling vets in a huge way. I pray someday the VA adds cannabis to list of suggested PTSD and painful injury and depression treatment resulting from service. I have tremendous respect for vets and anyone suffering.
    It’s these politicians like sessions and trump and chris Christie that try to fight against necessary policy and other positive changes based on current issues. They refuse updated information and want to rely on old reports and outdated morals and ideals which repeat the problems created by the policies that over 20+ years did way more harm than good and repress any and all facts that do not coincide with their money and status over general population ideals they represent and stand for.
    I hope someday we see more sensible policies that don’t rely on the status quo as there is too much terror, death, and ruined lives. We need to care about one another.

    Also remember, this DACA issue wouldn’t even be happening if trump haddnt rescinded the program in the first place. 😉

    • Mike Cavaselis

      I’ll be voting for Trump again in 2020 and his son in 2024, the one thing I disagree with his team is cannabis but having extra money in my check and bank account helps make up for that , getting all the illegals who suck the money out of government is only going to help, can’t wait for that wall!!,

    • Truepatriot_56

      Trump is doing the right thing. The deadbeat congress to blame. All states with medical or recreational weed should be sponsoring a bill in congress to remove all federal controls on weed, then it would be a states matter. Then weed businesses could operate like any other business, with a bank account.
      Blaming trump is stupid. Congress is lazy and missing in action. They need to be forced into doing their jobs and represent the people of their states, but they are spinless. What obama did was just a popularity stunt. Until weed is dealt with properly, this crap will just keep changing from one administration to the next. Quit blaming trump, and start calling, faxing, or emailing your congressman and senators, and burn their ears off. Get involved!!

    • CK

      How very fascist of you!

  • lovingc

    Freedom!, as soon as Trump and company are out of government and in jail where they all belong.

  • lovingc

    Why is it when the truth doesn’t sound bad enough, that republicans always lie their asses off. They have no facts that they didn’t pull right out of their asses. They can use real information because they would have to admit the whole drug war is only an attack on American freedom. Vote the regressives out in 2018.

  • Cheryl Westerkamm

    The only way to resolve the differences between you is to allow the other to disagree with your point of view. In a free society we must allow the other person to have a different view point and not take physical action against them because they disagree with us. Both positions are right at one time or another. Both positions cause problems. We need to change back and forth between the two to keep things balanced. Having one position last too long is a disaster. See it as the scales of liberal vs consertive. Remove all the individuale issues that cloud everything. Think large scale. Stop the blame game how does it help? The change to Trump was needful because change was needful. We needed a businessman instead of a politician. That is how easy it is to understand. Someone needs to clean up the mess in Washington.

  • Cheryl Westerkamm

    Medical MJ- For a change could the federal government get their heads out of their ass and think about the people for a change. Who uses Medical MJ: Cancer, Chronic Pain Disorder w/ Major Depression Disorder (what I have since 2001), PTSD, Heart, endless list of people helped by this. How can you not make this available across the USA. If federally you took this action eventually it would lead to FDA approval and one day pay for by our insurance. That would be insurance competing across state lines so we got the best value. Once again when it came time to give me a raise this year so I could afford to live you kept me at the same amount of money $1076/mo. No Increase again this year.

  • Paul Sorensen

    Dick Durbin is a lying sack of ditch weed.

  • Mike Welch

    We must stop calling them “shit hole countries” and refer to them as TURD WORLD COUNTRIES