Last Protection for Legal Cannabis Is Now On The Chopping Block


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  • The bill allowing state’s legal medical cannabis markets yet to be renewed
  • Officials from all 9 recreational cannabis markets indicated they plan on resisting any federal interference
  • President Trump and congressional leaders are running out of time to make an agreement

In a post-Cole Memo world, the current legal cannabis markets determine what the political landscape looks like.  While less thought of than the Obama-era Cole Memo, the congressional ruling which prevents the DOJ from using federal funds to intervene with state Medical Marijuana programs has yet to be renewed for 2018.

The Rohrahacher-Blumenauer Bill Explained

Originally passed in 2014, the bill has been renewed annually to extend protections for the budding industry.  This bill, known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer bill, provides protection for Medical Cannabis companies specifically while they remain in compliance with the laws of their state’s programs. However, the bill does not provide any protections for recreational markets.

This leads to speculation that Sessions did not have the support to go after them in 2017. U.S. Rep Earl Blumenauer (Oregon) has continued belief in the cannabis programs and remains confident that such industry protections will outlast Sessions attempts due to “broad bipartisan support.”

In December a short-term funding bill passed to extend the Federal budget through January 19th. This allowed federal agencies to remain open through the holidays, preventing a government shutdown. Passing in the House with a 231-188 vote and the Senate at 66-32, this provision extended the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer, giving legislators another month to hash out federal spending for 2018.

With only a week left to establish a full budgetary plan for 2018, it remains to be seen whether or not this final gateway of security for medical cannabis will remain in place.

What Does the Future Hold?

If President Trump and congressional leaders don’t reach agreement within the next week, a federal shutdown will be imminent. It is unclear how a shutdown of this form would affect cannabis businesses in the short-term, but if the bill is removed from the budget the cannabis industry will truly be standing alone. There is extensive congressional support and a majority of Americans (64%) have noted support in the last Gallop poll.  However, the question remains: has the cannabis market grown large enough to withstand full federal attack?

Responding to the Cole-Memo’s removal, attorney David C. Weiss of Delaware and attorney Andrew E. Lelling of Massachusetts have both declared intentions to allow medical programs to continue in their respective states as planned.

Additionally, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker declared full intent to press on with the state’s pending recreational program. Prominent figures from all nine existing recreational markets have voiced defiance to Sessions’ attempts to prosecute cannabis nationally.

With clear bipartisan support it is anyone’s guess how this will end when the dust settles, but those closest to the market seem quite confident that the A.G. does not command enough clout to manage a full-scale attack on cannabis. With the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer bill’s potential removal, only time will tell if cannabis will continue towards national legalization.

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