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Protection against DoJ interference with state medical cannabis programs extended until Dec. 8

Michael Rosenblum Kristin Smith September 18, 2017

A bipartisan short-term funding deal signed into law by President Donald Trump on Sept. 8 extended the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment protections for lawful medical cannabis programs that allow producers, retailers and consumers lawful under state law to continue operating without being prosecuted by the Justice Department. 

The amendment, formerly known as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, prohibits federal funds from being used to prevent states from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical cannabis. Originally introduced by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California) and Sam Farr (D-California) and signed into law by then-President Barack Obama as part of a 2014 omnibus spending bill, the amendment must be renewed each fiscal year in order to remain in effect.

In May 2017, the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment was renewed until Sept. 30 as part of a spending bill signed into law by President Trump. However, last week the House Rules Committee blocked the amendment from receiving consideration by the full House.  

At the House Rules Committee meeting, Reps. Rohrabacher and Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) testified that medical cannabis protections are existing law and that public opinion is in favor of the existing medical cannabis regulations in 46 states. Currently, 30 states have legalized medical cannabis and of the 20 other states, 16 have authorized CBD oil access. 

In a statement released after the recent House Rules Committee setback, Reps. Rohrabacher and Blumenauer stated:

“Committee leadership is putting at risk the millions of patients who rely on medical marijuana for treatment, as well as the clinics and businesses that support them. The American people … overwhelmingly oppose federal interference with state marijuana laws. These critical protections are supported by a majority of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle.”

Previously, in July 2017, the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Committee approved inclusion of the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment in the Senate CJS Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2018. With the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment set to expire on Dec. 8, the future of its protections now hinges on the work of the House-Senate conference committee, which will reconcile the differences between the spending bills of the two chambers this fall.

In their recent statement, Reps. Rohrabacher and Blumenauer advocated for protecting medical cannabis policies enacted by each individual state. The two representatives said, “as House and Senate leadership negotiate a long-term funding bill, we will fight to maintain current protections.”

Michael Rosenblum is a corporate and securities associate and Kristin Smith is an advisor in the Thompson Coburn Lobbying and Policy group.


Thompson Coburn advises clients on state laws governing the business of cannabis to facilitate compliance with those state laws. Federal laws concerning cannabis currently conflict with state laws in states that have legalized cannabis or possession of cannabis. Although federal enforcement policy may at times defer to these states’ laws and not enforce conflicting federal laws, interested businesses and individuals should be aware that compliance with state law in no way assures compliance with federal law, and there is a risk that conflicting federal laws may be enforced in the future. In addition to this Cannabis-specific note, readers should review Thompson Coburn’s Conditions of Use / Disclaimers page containing other important information.