The only legal obstacle preventing federal prosecutors from cracking down on Ohio’s medical marijuana program is a budget provision that expired with the federal budget on Friday.
The provision prohibits the U.S. Department of Justice from using federal funds to crack down on medical marijuana in states where it is legal. In Ohio, the medical pot program is supposed to be fully operational by September.
The provision protecting medical pot users and growers is often referred to as the Rohrabacher amendment, named after Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif. The amendment was added to the 2014 budget bill, and has had bipartisan support since then. It was included in the stop-gap budget measure that expired Friday.
Officials with Rohrabacher’s office say they expect it will be included in any additional continuing resolutions that may be passed to end a government shutdown.
“It has been supported on a bipartisan basis in recent years. There’s no reason to think that’s changed,” said David Carle, spokesman for U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, who submitted it as part of the Senate’s actual budget, which would carry funding through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.
Ohio law requires the state’s medical marijuana program to be humming weeks before Sept. 30. So, unless the provision is restored, the companies that by then will be growing tens of thousands of square feet of marijuana in documented indoor growing facilities across the state could be subject to federal prosecution.
“There does seem to be increased sentiment in Congress that the restrictions should be permanent,” said Ken Grubbs, a spokesman for Rohrabacher.
But others aren’t so sure, pointing to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ vocal opposition to marijuana. Sessions peeled back an Obama-era