Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. (Cliff Owen, Associated Press file)

Oregon Rep. Blumenauer disputes report that medical marijuana state protection amendment got nixed

How does a bill become a law? The classic Schoolhouse Rock Question degenerated over the last 24 hours into the latest spat between opposing sides of the medical marijuana debate.

Related: Medical marijuana, hemp protections included in federal spending bill

Wednesday evening, anti-marijuana legalization organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) sent out a press release announcing what they called “great news”:

The Rohrabacher-Farr language was eliminated from the Commerce, Justice, Science bill that funds the Department of Justice, even though it had previously been included in the 2017 base text. In addition, the Financial Services bill retained language preventing Washington, DC from implementing full retail sales and commercialization of recreational marijuana.

The $1 trillion omnibus bill passed by Congress in May included an amendment previously known as “Rohrabacher-Farr,” now sponsored by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), that prevents the Justice Department from using funds to interfere with the implementation of medical marijuana laws in U.S. states and territories.

Blumenauer said SAM’s analysis of the amendment’s status was flawed, in a press release Wednesday evening: “The folks at SAM clearly don’t understand the legislative process. Our amendment has never been in the CJS Subcommittee’s bill.”

Blumenauer’s statement clarified, “There is no news here. We are exactly where we thought we would be in the legislative process and look forward to amending the underlying bill once again this year to make sure medical marijuana programs, and the patients who rely on them, are protected. Voters in states across the country have acted to legalize medical marijuana. Congress should not act against the will of the people who elected us.”

Then the Oregon congressman took the battle to social media, tipping his hat to Tom Angell of advocacy group Marijuana Majority, who was the first to question SAM’s statement:

SAM’s CEO Kevin Sabet fired back with a release Thursday morning calling Blumenauer and Rohrabacher “two Members of Congress funded by illegal marijuana operations selling pot candies to kids” who “like the fox and the sour grapes… changed their tune once they didn’t get what they wanted.”

In April, the two congressmen had sent a letter to the House CJS committee chiefs requesting language protecting medical marijuana states be included in the base appropriations bill for the first time, based on its successful inclusion as an amendment since 2014. It was co-signed by 42 other members of the House.

In an email statement sent to The Cannabist Thursday afternoon, Blumenauer said he wasn’t surprised by SAM’s “complete misrepresentation” of the legislative process and that it was “entirely consistent with its repeated falsehoods about marijuana.”

“SAM claimed a false victory, and instead of correcting the record, it doubled down,” he said in the statement.

SAM also stated via Twitter Thursday that they believe Angell wrote the press release issued by Blumenauer.

Angell disputed the claim:

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 also includes provisions that restrict the Drug Enforcement Administration and Department of Justice from using federal funds to prohibit the transportation, processing and sale of industrial hemp as outlined in the 2014 Farm Bill.

A similar amendment protecting state-based recreational marijuana laws was previously sponsored by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colorado. He told The Cannabist he will back the inclusion of the so-called McClintock-Polis amendment in the coming fiscal year’s spending bill.

In case you want to get this song stuck in your head: