The $1 trillion spending bill, which is slated to pass this week to fund the U.S. government until September, includes language that protects state medical marijuana programs from federal enforcement.
The policy prevents the Justice Department, despite the fact that marijuana remains federally banned, from using budgetary funds to interfere with states that passed medical marijuana laws and ensures that medical cannabis can be cultivated, distributed, and used in those states and territories.
"Patients and doctors in states that have approved medical marijuana need to know that they are safe from arrest and prosecution by the federal government," a summary of the spending bill, written by the Senate Appropriations Committee, reads.
The language in the budget is a continuation of what was known as the "Rohrabacher-Farr" amendment, which was first passed in 2014, sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-California, and Rep. Sam Farr, D-California.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 is expected to pass, but it is only an extension until September 30.
The marijuana policy included in the federal budget is a positive sign during uncertain times under President Trump and Attorney General Sessions. As long as this amendment is in place, the DOJ cannot use budgetary funds to prevent states from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana. But, recreational businesses and users are not protected under this provision.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, a long-time supporter of legalization, said in a statement that the language in the budget is "a measure of certainty." But, he added, the annual challenge to pass these protections must end.
"We need permanent protections for state-legal medical marijuana programs, as well as adult-use," said Blumenauer.