Trump’s Possible Government Shutdown May Negatively Impact Legal Marijuana Climate


Democrats are refusing to funnel billions of dollars into President Trump’s proposed border wall, and as a result, President Donald J. Trump is threatening a complete shutdown of the United States government. As arguments ensue over election results and border security, drug enforcement officials work behind the scenes on changes that would strip legal marijuana of the few protections the industry already struggles to retain.

Marijuana Vulnerable to Shutdown and Expirations

The legal marijuana industry, which continues to expand both in terms of medical and recreational use, is now at the mercy of the president’s pen. Should Trump decide not to apply his signature to the critical and fast-approaching appropriations bills (or any of the provisional rider extensions), marijuana may face vulnerabilities to federal drug enforcement actions that have been held back since 2014 by a spending bill rider. The rider, which is set to expire unless signed by the president, currently allows states to maintain their own medical cannabis programs without interference from federal entities.

Both the Department of Justice and prosecutors across the country will continue to operate, even in the event of a government shutdown. As the Justice Department explains, operation of departments such as the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) would continue “without interruption as an activity essential to the safety of human life and the protection of property,” while U.S attorneys, appointed by the presidential office, also remain on duty to facilitate criminal matters and civil situations. DEA agents are similarly noted in the plan as exceptions as they “support active narcotic investigations.”

Effects on Legal Marijuana

The key concern for legal marijuana amidst the possible government shutdown and exceptions involves the non-exempt Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which bars the Justice Department from providing federal funding to anything that interferes with individual state medical cannabis laws. If the legislation, part of an appropriations bill not yet signed by President Trump, isn’t granted a funding extension by its December 21st deadline, the rider protecting legal marijuana will expire, while federal drug enforcement activities continue.

This is, of course, not the first time we’ve seen concerns over marijuana enforcement raised under the Trump administration. In January of this year, another government shutdown threat made by the president was, somewhat suspiciously, timed with former Attorney General Sessions’ repeal of an Obama administration memo that contained instructions for federal cannabis enforcement action. Nothing came of that past threat, however, which gives the legal marijuana industry hope in this second instance.

Furthermore, the Justice Department is currently led by Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, a vocal sympathizer of medical cannabis patients. It is not yet clear how fully Whitaker supports legal marijuana as he has spoken out against Obama’s marijuana policies in the past, though the positivity toward patients is a good start.

What Happens Next?

The extent to which ongoing federal operations will affect legal marijuana in the event of a shutdown remains to be seen. The protections currently enjoyed by the industry are slim enough already, and have much to lose after gaining significant progress in the last year. As this story develops, the future of marijuana will become more clear.

Today’s blog post is written by Rick Weyback, MD, founder and president of Doctor Jane and our medical marijuana physician. Stay tuned for updates on this topic as events continue to unfold.

About Doctor Jane

Doctor Jane is South Florida’s most discreet, professional, and convenient concierge medical cannabis practice. Dr. Luis Enrique R. Liogier-Weyback and his wife, Katie Liogier-Weyback, B.S., R.N., founded Doctor Jane on the core tenets of bringing personal, convenient, professional and discreet patient care to the medical marijuana treatment process. Doctor Jane provides South Florida patients and their caregivers with a safe space where they can exercise their right to access medical cannabis therapy in an environment of their choosing, free from stigma and complications.

Visit our website to find out more or to schedule your own medical cannabis consultation.