Congress will ignore President Trump’s budget request to end a current policy protecting medical marijuana states from federal interference, a Republican lawmaker said on Tuesday.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who is a key White House ally on Capitol Hill, was asked by Marijuana Moment on Twitter whether he feels concerned about the president’s proposal to eliminate the long-standing rider, which prohibits the Justice Department from using its funds to interfere wite the implementation of state and tribal medical cannabis programs.
“No,” he said. “We have the votes to continue the current policy through the appropriations process.”
No. We have the votes to continue the current policy through the appropriations process.
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) February 11, 2020
Gaetz, who proudly said last year that he’s had conversations with Trump where the president has been “very supportive” of medical cannabis, did not respond to a follow up question about whether the budget request could be politically damaging to the president.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who has been a leading sponsor of the medical cannabis protections amendment, also reacted to Trump’s proposal in a statement to Marijuana Moment.
“Trump’s latest budget is an attack on 8 years of progress at all levels. Luckily, Congress has fought back and defeated most of Trump’s misguided budget priorities,” he said. “I will continue to lead the effort to protect state legal medical cannabis programs and seek to get new protections for adult-use and tribal programs. These are critical as we continue our fight to reform hopelessly outdated federal cannabis policies.”
Gaetz’s Twitter response came amid a thread where the congressman fired back at his state’s Republican attorney general, who filed a court brief arguing that a proposed ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in Florida should not be allowed to proceed. The campaign behind the measure recently suspended its efforts to place the issue before voters in 2020 , but it is continuing to collect signatures for a 2022 push.
“Oh sure you can,” Gaetz said in response to the attorney general’s argument that states cannot allow use of a substance that is banned under federal law.
Our federalist system contemplates the several states as laboratories of democracy – especially in cases where the federal government has failed so miserably.
Federal cannabis policy is an indefensible joke. States should give it no reverence.
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) February 11, 2020
“Our federalist system contemplates the several states as laboratories of democracy—especially in cases where the federal government has failed so miserably,” he said. “Federal cannabis policy is an indefensible joke. States should give it no reverence.”
To that end, the medical cannabis protection language that the president is seeking to delete for fiscal year 2021 has given states a sense of autonomy over their marijuana policies.
Trump has omitted the rider in past requests—and President Obama similarly asked for the policy to be stricken—but Congress has consistently upheld it since its initial enactment in 2014.
The House approved an additional amendment to spending legislation last year that would have extended protections to state and tribal marijuana programs that allow recreational use and sales, but the Senate didn’t include a similar provision in its version and it was ultimately left out of the final bill that Trump signed.
The president approved the large-scale 2020 spending legislation that included a renewal of the medical cannabis rider, but he also included a statement stipulating that he is entitled to ignore the congressionally approved protections and that his administration “will treat this provision consistent with the President’s constitutional responsibility to faithfully execute the laws of the United States.”
Trump’s latest budget request also includes a provision continuing to bar Washington, D.C. from using its local tax dollars to implement a regulated marijuana market.
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said in a press release that she is “disappointed, but not surprised” that the president wants to continue the cannabis block on her city.
That said, while the medical marijuana rider and Trump’s request to end it have received the most attention, there are at least two other funding proposals that the cannabis industry is pleased with. One provides funding to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to continue implementing the hemp’s legalization and regulation. The other allocates money to the Food and Drug Administration to develop rules for CBD.
Photo courtesy of Meredith Geddings.