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Sept. 8, 2017, 6:54 a.m. EDT

Congress gives medical marijuana users a good reason to be paranoid

Senator Patrick Leahy introduced a similar amendment that could still uphold protections granted to patients and medical marijuana providers in states where it is legal

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By Trey Williams, MarketWatch


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Card-carrying medical marijuana patients at Los Angeles' first-ever cannabis farmer's market at the West Coast Collective medical marijuana dispensary

The legal medical marijuana market took a major hit on Wednesday, after the U.S. House Rules Committee blocked an amendment for medical marijuana protections from the House’s 2018 budget bill.

In 2014 Congress passed the Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment, prohibiting the U.S. Department of Justice from spending federal dollars to enforce the federal prohibition laws in states where medical marijuana has been legalized — now 29 states plus the District of Columbia.

That amendment is set to expire on Sept. 30.

Check out: Marijuana industry could be worth $50 billion annually by 2026

Read: The Marijuana industry aims to undo the harm caused by the war on drugs

The amendment introduced in the House budget plan by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) would similarly prevent the Justice Department from using federal funds to target medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it is legal.

Despite the growing acceptance of legal marijuana, it is still illegal at the federal level, labeled a Schedule I substance along with heroin and LSD.

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The amendment was voted “out of order,” and is now dead. Rohrabacher and Blumenauer said in a statement on Thursday that blocking the vote puts millions of patients relying on medical marijuana treatment at risk, and that the decision goes against the will of the American people.

“There’s no question: If a vote were allowed, our amendment would pass on the House floor, as it has several times before,” the statement read.

An April poll from Quinnipiac University found 73% of U.S. voters oppose government enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized medical and or recreational marijuana.

“When an overwhelming majority of Americans oppose federal interference in state medical marijuana programs, it is unconscionable not to let their Representatives vote on whether to continue this policy,” said the Marijuana Policy Project’s director of conservative outreach Don Murphy in a statement.

Canada introduced legislation in April, setting up plans to legalize marijuana by July 2018.

The marijuana industry has relied on protections granted in the Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment, and previously the Obama-era Cole Memo. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, while admitting his department doesn’t have the necessary resources, has made clear his stance on and intentions for medical marijuana.

Read: Jeff Sessions isn’t wrong about addiction, but evidence says heroin is still more dangerous than marijuana

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