GOP-led House Rules Committee blocks voting on marijuana amendments

The U.S. House Committee on Rules has blocked a number of marijuana-related amendments from a federal appropriations bill, including the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment.

The GOP-led committee’s moves late Wednesday mean multiple amendments protecting existing and future state marijuana laws won’t be getting a vote on the House floor.

The most notable measure cast out of the must-pass appropriations bill was the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, which would bar the Justice Department from using funds to interfere with existing state-enacted medical marijuana regulations. The amendment formerly known as Rohrabacher-Farr (Rep. Sam Farr has retired) has been in place since late 2014, when it received a 219-189 vote in the House, and was approved again in 2015, by a 242-186 vote. It has been extended through omnibus spending legislation set to expire at the end of this month.

The committee’s removal of the medical marijuana protections from the House bill does not kill the amendment, and it still has a chance of making it into the legislation that lays out annual funding for the federal government. In late July, the Senate Appropriations Committee authorized the amendment for inclusion in the larger spending bill. Once the House version is passed, it faces reconciliation with that Senate version by a joint committee.

As The Cannabist’s Alicia Wallace previously reported, the potential short-term funding deal revealed Wednesday likely would include the existing Rohrabacher-Farr language, extending those protections through year’s end if it is approved.

Earlier Wednesday, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-California, and co-sponsors Jared Polis, D-Colorado, and Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, all testified before the committee that the medical marijuana protections are existing law and that public opinion is in favor of the existing medical cannabis regulations in 46 states.

“To deny (members of Congress) the right to have a vote, I think, is unconscionable,” Rohrabacher told the committee.

Said Blumenauer: “It would be a tragic mistake to lose the progress that we made.”

Three amendments on banking were offered, sponsored by Dennis “Denny” Heck, D-Washington. They would have allowed for marijuana businesses to have access to banking by prohibiting the punishment of financial institutions that serve licensed marijuana businesses and preventing the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network from rescinding its guidance for banks that work with marijuana firms.

The measures were rejected on an 8-5 vote, with the four Democrats on the committee joined by Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse of Washington in favor of the banking amendments.

Other amendments blocked by the committee included additional protection for medical marijuana research, sponsored by Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz, and another allowing the District of Columbia to use local funding to regulate and tax recreational marijuana, which D.C. legalized in 2014.

Watch the committee hearing:

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