WASHINGTON, DC — In a change of trajectory, the powerful Appropriations Committee in the House of Representatives has for the first time included limited protections for cannabis businesses engaged in the legal marketplaces in 33 states.
Included in the appropriations package are two sections that address the growing tension between the federal prohibition and criminalization of marijuana and the emerging state legal marketplaces, as well as one deleterious section of language that is currently in effect which is omitted in the new version of the bill.
State Legal Medical Programs
Since 2014, there has been a spending restriction that prevents the Department of Justice from spending one penny or paperclip to take action against state-legal medical cannabis programs. This language was first introduced to the House in 2001 and for the first time in history, it is now included in what is referred to as “the base text,” meaning that its inclusion did not require a vote.
As many who live in legal states know, cannabis businesses have a real banking problem – primarily that they do not have bank accounts. This leads to the industry operating on an all-cash basis, proving a difficult and undue burden on both businesses and consumers. This language has been approved by multiple votes yet stripped out during the bicameral conference committees in 2014, 2015, and 2016. This year marks the first time that this language was included in the base text.
DC Legalization Implementation
In 2014, residents of the District of Columbia voted overwhelmingly to end prohibition and criminalization in order to pave the way for the city council to implement a regulated marketplace for adult-use cannabis. Yet the Republican House at the time, led by Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), decided to interfere and prevent DC from self-determination on this issue. The only reason why Congress was able to take this action against the city and not similarily against other states that have legalized was due to the disenfranchisement of DC residents stemming from their legal status as a territory and not an independent state. The FY2020 Appropriations Bill marks the first time that this language has not been included in a House appropriations package.