How Marijuana Could Affect

President Donald Trump is threatening to shut the government down if Democrats refuse billions of dollars in financing for a border wall — but the consequences of that action would extend far beyond border safety.

If the president makes good on his promise to withhold his signature from essential appropriations bills this moment, that could inadvertently leave the authorized bud industry vulnerable to federal drug enforcement actions. A spending bill rider that has protected state medical cannabis programs from national intervention since 2014 would expire, while the Justice Department and prosecutors would generally stay operational.

That’s because the Department of Justice includes a contingency program in place in the event of a government shutdown, and it exempts many workers, including U.S. attorneys and people who work for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), from furlough.

“Criminal lawsuit will continue without interruption as an activity essential to the safety of human life and the protection of property,” the Justice Department explains in its contingency plan. U.S. attorneys are protected because they’re presidentially appointed and “are needed to address continuing criminal matters and civil matters of urgency throughout the nation. ”

“All agents in DEA field organizations are excepted from furlough because they support active counternarcotics investigations,” the document states.

The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment would not be exempted, though. The legislation — which bars the Justice Department from using federal funds to interfere with state medical cannabis legislation — is part of the the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations bill.

Generally, the deadline to receive appropriations passed is the end of the previous fiscal year, September 30. But rather than hold a vote or allow federal departments to lose funding, lawmakers have passed a series of continuing resolutions throughout 2018, providing temporary funding and pushing back the deadline. The latest two-week continuing settlement passed on December 7, so the new deadline is December 21.

Should lawmakers don’t pass, or President Trump doesn’t signal, either a full-year or temporary expansion of financing by then, the medical cannabis rider will expire, but national drug enforcement capabilities will not. And that would leave medical marijuana patients and the companies that serve them in a dicey position.

Similar concerns about the possibility of national marijuana enforcement have been repeatedly raised under the Trump government. In January 2018, things appeared especially precarious, as the president’s threat of a government shutdown came weeks after then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an Obama-era memo that provided advice on national cannabis enforcement practices.

That decision stoked fears that a shutdown would enable the Justice Department to act on the attorney general’s vehement opposition to marijuana reform. But after less than three times, a continuing resolution passed and state-legal marijuana actions continued unimpeded.

This time around, as the deadline approaches, the Justice Department head is Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who had served as Sessions’ chief of staff.

There’s no telling at this point whether Whitaker, the DEA or federal prosecutors would take advantage of broad exemptions from furlough and crack down on legal medical marijuana states in case of a shutdown. However, as always, the possibility puts the cannabis business in an embarrassing position.

This guide was republished from Marijuana Moment under a content syndication agreement. Read the first article here.

Released at Thu, 13 Dec 2018 00:22:49 +0000

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