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Congress Could Approve Marijuana Measures This Week

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Current funding for the U.S. government runs out on Friday, and negotiators from both chambers of Congress are working out details of a spending deal to keep federal agencies operating through Fiscal Year 2016. The legislation could include several important provisions related to marijuana policy.

The amendments in question would:

* Prevent the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws.

-Similar language was enacted last year and is current law for Fiscal Year 2015. On June 3, the House approved the amendment by a vote of 242-186 and on June 11, the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted the amendment by a vote of 21-9.

* Prevent the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state industrial hemp research programs.

-Similar language was enacted last year and is current law for Fiscal Year 2015. On June 3, the House approved the amendment by a vote of 289-132 and on June 11, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the amendment by a voice vote.

* Allow doctors with the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana to military veterans, and prevent the V.A. from denying services to veterans because they are medical marijuana patients in accordance with state law.

-On April 30, the House narrowly rejected the amendment by a vote of 210-213 but on May 21, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the amendment by a vote of 18-12, and its language was included in a bill passed by the full Senate on November 10.

* Prevent the federal government from punishing banks for doing business with state-legal marijuana providers.

-On July 23, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the amendment to by a vote of 16-14.

The measures above were all included in a package of spending bills introduced in October by powerful Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS), representing what he thought could pass the Senate as final funding measures for 2016.

Cochran’s legislation also excluded language from previous years’ spending bills that has prevented Washington, D.C. from spending money to implement a system of legalized and taxed sales of marijuana. If that language is also absent from the final omnibus spending bill negotiators are currently working on, the District of Columbia will be able to move forward with enacting marijuana sales regulations that the mayor and local lawmakers have indicated they support but have been stymied from moving forward with due to ongoing Congressional interference.

House and Senate negotiators are currently battling over several other policy riders related to Syrian refugees, abortion, net neutrality, guns, campaign finance rules and environmental regulations. As a result, it is expected that they will miss Friday’s deadline for arriving at a final deal, and Congress is likely to pass a short-term five-day extension of current funding to avoid a government shutdown, at least until Wednesday.

Stay tuned to Marijuana.com to find out which marijuana provisions are in the final spending package as soon as details are announced.

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