On Thursday, the Senate passed the spending legislation which has a provision that ensures that medical marijuana states are protected from federal interference. However, the question on everyone’s mind is if the bill will be signed into law once it gets to the president’s office.
The spending legislation is also referred to as minibus appropriation as it covers funding for Agriculture, commerce, Environment, Food, and Drug Administration, Housing, Interior, Justice, Military Construction, Rural Development, Science, Veteran Affairs, Transportation and Urban Development for the 2020 financial year.
The vote on the bill was overwhelming, with 84 in favor vs. 9 votes against. The legislation also had language related to new hemp and CBD.
The legislation prohibits the Department of Justice from using its resources to persecute persons whose actions comply with state marijuana regulations.
In June, the House approved the Justice Department Appropriation bill which would extend protection to all Cannabis programs including recreational use and sale in the legalized states in the U.S. Marijuana advocates are hopeful that the Senators will approve the legislation; however, in an interview with some media outlets, some Senators said that it is unlikely for the added policies to be adopted because of the bicameral agreement made by the Congressional leaders which stipulated that no new policy riders are to be added during the appropriation process unless agreed on a bipartisan basis.
If the bicameral conference committee negotiators agree to use the House language in the final legislation, the Senate will send the amended bill to the president’s desk for 2020. If, by 21st November, the spending bill is not signed into law, the government will cease operations. Therefore, to avoid such an incident, the larger chambers may opt to approve the bill previously passed by the Senate.
The political director of NORML, Justin Strekal, said he hopes the House will insist on the inclusion of the provision restricting the feds from interfering with marijuana programs in the legalized states in the minibus spending legislation.
Last week, a separate amendment was added to the minibus appropriation bill by Senator Bob Menedez, calling on the Attorney General to review the criminal justice effects of marijuana legalization. However, the Senate did not consider nor discuss the measure.
Apart from the marijuana protection language, the Senate Appropriations Committee also advanced other policies through the spending process. They approved legislation with additional policies that barred Washington from using the local resources, such as tax revenue, to develop a legal marijuana market. It also approved a provision granting funds to the Department of Agriculture to sanction rules for legal hemp program.
In the House version of the appropriations bill, lawmakers also approved a provision for issuing protection to the banks doing business with the marijuana industry, as well as the removal of the measure barring D.C. from implementing a marijuana market.
The majority of the Senate is Republican, and they are sticking with the bicameral agreement; this may lead to the formation of standalone cannabis legislation, such as the SAFE Banking Act, which would allow banks to work with weed businesses without interference from the Department of Justice.
Analysts are of the view that the entire cannabis industry, including Marijuana Company of America Inc. (OTCQB: MCOA) and VPR Brands LP (OTCQB: VPRB), is waiting with bated breath to see how the final vote on the bill goes.
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