Medical marijuana advocates who feared a crackdown under new U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions are praising a provision in a new budget bill that bars the U.S. Department of Justice from interfering with medical marijuana programs in states that allow them, including Missouri.
The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, named for two U.S. House members, has been part of budget legislation since 2014. But Sessions’ strong anti-marijuana stance had spurred fears it might not be renewed.
John Payne, the executive director of Show-Me Cannabis, said via email that the amendment’s inclusion in the bill the U.S. House of Representatives passed Thursday means Missourians who use medical marijuana can breathe easy.
“The latest appropriations bill indicates that there will be no federal crackdown on medical cannabis under the Trump administration,” Payne said.
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Sessions, appointed by President Donald Trump, had said that he intended to enforce federal marijuana prohibitions even in states that had legalized the plant in some forms. But the current budget bill provides no money for him to do so — at least until it expires in September.
Missouri has one of the most restrictive medical marijuana laws in the United States. It allows people with untreatable epilepsy to possess up to 20 ounces of cannabis extract if it contains no more than 0.3 percent THC, the ingredient in marijuana that produces the “high” that recreational users seek.
Under Missouri law, they can only purchase it from state-licensed dispensaries, and they have to have a written referral from a neurologist.
Kansas was not named in the budget bill because it has no legal forms of marijuana possession, medical or otherwise.
Even so, shops selling low-THC cannabis oils have popped up on both sides of the state line, with owners saying they believe they’re protected by federal law that allows research on “industrial hemp.”
Marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance, subject to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s strictest regulations.
But more than half the states have legalized marijuana for some medical uses, and Congress set a precedent of not interfering with those programs during the Obama administration.
“Although federal law still needs to change to make medical cannabis fully legal, Congress has now repeatedly shown that they are not interested in appropriating scarce funds to raid medical cannabis dispensaries and arrest patients in states that have decided that cannabis should be a legal medical option for patients under their doctor’s supervision,” Payne said.