Late this week, both houses of Congress passed a debt and disaster relief bill that will allow the federal government to pay its people, provide disaster relief to areas of Texas (and, soon, Florida) wrecked by historic hurricanes, and otherwise function until December.
Tucked into the Senate’s version of the spending bill—and approved by a nearly 3-to-1 margin in the House on Friday, with all the opposition coming from firebrand conservative Republicans—is a temporary extension of crucial protections for the country’s legal marijuana industry, as MarijuanaPolitics.com noted.
A budget provision known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, which has effectively blocked the U.S. Justice Department from taking action against state law-abiding medical marijuana operations since 2014, is now effective until at least Dec. 8 of this year.
These are the same protections that were jeopardized—and, along with them, legal weed in America—when House GOP leadership successfully blocked this amendment from even coming to a vote on Wednesday… shortly before President Donald Trump cucked House Speaker Paul Ryan and cut a separate deal with Democratic leadership on a spending bill.
Which, in turn, means Donald Trump—quite probably unwittingly and accidentally—just helped hand the marijuana industry a massive reprieve, albeit a temporary one.
Ryan and his GOP friends, you see, wanted an 18-month extension on the contentious spending bill, in order to avoid that key government function to become a campaign issue during the 2018 midterms. Democrats, of course, want such basic politics to be part of the political campaign they hope will see them reclaim at least some measure of power in Washington.
Trump, possibly because he’s sick of the GOP Congress making him look bad, went ahead and accepted Democrats’ offer of a three-month extension. This means that the ugliest and most contentious debate Congress has—other than, say, polite conversation about sentencing Americans to death by yanking away their healthcare—will now happen in December.
At the same time, Congress will have to take up the matter of whether to defend the medical marijuana movement from a crackdown led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions yet again.
In May, Sessions directly asked Congress to end those protections. They rebuffed him, but as this week’s episode shows, a tiny minority of lawmakers have the ability to override the majority via parliamentarian tricks.
“The industry and the patients who rely on it for access to medicine just got some relief, even if it’s only temporary,” said Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority legalization advocacy group, in a statement provided to High Times. “But the uncertainty about whether the continued protections for next year that are included in the Senate’s FY2018 bill will be adopted or if the House’s blocking tactics will instead prove successful is creating anxiety that seriously ill people who need medical cannabis just don’t deserve. It would be a disaster if Congress gave Jeff Sessions a green light to go after patients and providers in December.”
Despite wide support from the American public and die-hard Trump Republicans representing states where cannabis is legal, House GOP leadership displayed stunning and outright troubling hostility towards cannabis reform this week.
In addition to the medical marijuana protections, Republicans on the House Rules committee also blocked legislation that would have allowed cannabis businesses to use bank accounts and set up legal recreational marijuana sales in Washington, D.C., where cannabis has been legal for adults for some time. Some of these same Republicans were among the 90 wraiths who also voted against spending money on disaster relief. So we know they’re stone-hearted monsters.
But enough about them. Let’s talk about Trump.
Trump’s sudden friendly turn towards Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi has left Republicans slackjawed and punch-drunk. Everyone in Washington is trying to figure out what game Trump is playing.
That’s a waste of time: Trump’s playing the same game he always has, a Monopoly of Me-First. Cutting a bipartisan deal is exactly what Trump promised he would do during his campaign, and lo—the press is praising him for it!
Trump gets to bask in the warm glow of adulation, his favorite thing in the world, and by accident, cannabis gets what it needs.
Did Trump know what he was doing? Yes—he knew he was tired of nine months of getting nothing done in Congress. If that means stumbling into a weed-friendly move, so be it.