The medical marijuana community was left feeling stronger last month after a federal court ruled that the Department of Justice (DOJ) must adhere to the rules designated with the passing of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment—a budget restriction that prevents the use of federal funds for the prosecution of dispensaries and patients acting in compliance with state law. However, that temporary protection is set to expire in the coming weeks, opening up the gates for the goons over at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to start kicking down doors again in 2017.
The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which was passed in 2014 and renewed in 2015, was designed as a safeguard for the medical marijuana industry by preventing the use of federal funds for raids and prosecutions of medical marijuana participants. But the Justice Department used its own loose interpretation of the rider to continue its reign of terror, suggesting that it only hindered the department from “impeding the ability of states to carry out their medical marijuana laws,” but did nothing to stop them from bullying the medical marijuana community.
After a lot of noise, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit finally stood up to offer some clarification, saying, “At a minimum, [the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment] prohibits DOJ from spending funds from relevant appropriations acts for the prosecution of individuals who engaged in conduct permitted by the State Medical Marijuana Laws and who fully complied with such laws.”
However, Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain, who penned the decision on behalf of the three-judge panel, was quick to point out that the Department of Justice and its cronies over at the DEA could one day resume the dropping of the hammer on medical marijuana businesses and patients the second Congress decides to no longer support Rohrabacher-Farr.
“Congress could restore funding tomorrow, a year from now, or four years from now, and the government could then prosecute individuals who committed offenses while the government lacked funding,” O’Scannlain wrote.
Unfortunately, this devastating blow could happen within the next few months.
An email sent to HIGH TIMES by the Marijuana Majority indicates that the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which is tucked inside a federal spending bill, is set to run out on September 30. This should be making the medical marijuana community a little nervous, especially considering that no one knows for certain whether Congress will renew the rider for inclusion in the Fiscal Year 2017 federal spending plan. If the provision does not make the cut, the DEA will have free rein to start busting skulls once more in the 25 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized the leaf for medicinal use.
According to a report from Marijuana.com, arguments inside both chambers pertaining to issues ranging from guns to transgender rights have put the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment on unstable ground. That’s because Republican leadership, the same federal gatekeepers responsible for blocking a number of marijuana-related amendments earlier this year, has apparently begun to strong-arm the amendment process, allowing “only certain approved amendments” to advance to the floor—a situation that could easily sabotage the current medical marijuana protections.
As it stands, there are no guarantees the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment will receive any consideration in next year’s government budget. Although nothing drastic is expected to take place in the next few months, it is possible that the medical marijuana community could once again find itself with a target painted on its back.
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