Since 2014, medical marijuana laws in the United States have been protected from federal government interference by very little. The only thing really standing in the way is a spending bill that is renewed annually, in which Congress has continuously included a provision that prevents the Department of Justice (DOJ) from prosecuting medical marijuana businesses and patients operating within state laws. Earlier this year, a version of the spending bill included a provision that included both the medical and recreational markets – but it was revised before being finalized, once again only covering state-legal medical marijuana.
Not for the first time, President Trump signed the spending bill – but made sure to include a signing statement basically saying that he has the right to ignore that provision, whether congress approved it or not. Trump has been back and forth about his support for legalization, making statements like the one below, while also claiming to support states’ rights to legalize.
“Division B, section 531 of the Act provides that the Department of Justice may not use any funds made available under this Act to prevent implementation of medical marijuana laws by various States and territories,” Trump wrote in a signing statement. “My Administration will treat this provision consistent with the President’s constitutional responsibility to faithfully execute the laws of the United States.”
Along with protections to the state-legal marijuana industries, the year’s spending bill also included provisions specifically regarding hemp and CBD.
One provision requires the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to provide a report on the barriers to researching medical marijuana and other Schedule I drugs, while another wants the National Institutes of Health to invest in studying the medicinal effects of cannabidiol and cannabigerol. Yet another provision wants to see the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to put at least $1 million into grants to determine if CBD and kratom could be safer alternatives to opioids.
Congress made sure to cover a lot of bases this time around, also including $2 million to be allocated to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to develop regulations for hemp-derived CBD. This should include “research, policy evaluation, market surveillance, issuance of an enforcement discretion policy, and appropriate regulatory activities with respect to products under the jurisdiction of the FDA which contain CBD and meet the definition of hemp.” An initial report is expected within 60 days, while a study of the current CBD marketplace is due back in 180 days.
Overall, there was a lot of good that happened in this federal spending bill for the cannabis industry – even if protections for state-legal recreational markets, banking access for cannabis businesses and greater accessibility for veterans didn’t make it through.