Marijuana Law Update: Washington Extends Legislation that Prohibits the Spending of U.S. Tax Dollars on Enforcement against Medical Marijuana Use, and Vermont Legalizes Recreational Use

The recent budget negotiations to reopen the government included an extension of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, which prohibits federal tax dollars from being spent to enforce federal prohibition in states where medical marijuana is legal.  While this extension only lasts until February 8, 2018, it is quite possible it will be further extended into the future.  This provision has been in place since 2014.

In addition to Rohrabacher-Blumenauer, there are no less than 6 separate pending bills in the House and Senate to end and/or significantly restrict federal enforcement of marijuana prohibitions.  It is expected during the course of future budget negotiations that these issues will be revisited, as the measures enjoy bipartisan support.

During the course of the last week, yet another state enacted legislation legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.  The Governor of Vermont signed the first legislatively-created bill (all previous legalizations were done by voter referendums) to legalize adult recreational use. 

Additionally, with the recent changing of the guard in New Jersey, it is expected that this State will be following suit shortly.  The new governor has previously expressed his support for legalizing recreational marijuana use.  He has promised to have a statute in place authorizing recreational marijuana use during his first 100 days in office.

This trend is important to watch because, as more states move to legalize recreational marijuana use, the federal government may no longer be able to stand pat.  Keep in mind that alcohol prohibition essentially met its demise when New York decided to defy the federal government on the issue.  As more states legalize recreational use (the count is now at 9, plus D.C., and New Jersey, if it follows through, would be the 10th), the U.S. Government (and the Executive Branch specifically) may be forced to take some kind of responsive action.

The number of states where recreational use of marijuana is legal is expected to increase even more after the 2018 mid-term elections.  Based on all currently available information, Michigan appears likely to be one of the states that will legalize recreational marijuana use.

If recreational or medical marijuana use is an issue that significantly concerns your association, then you may wish to act now to amend your bylaws to limit or prohibit such use rather than be caught flat-footed in November by the rising pro-marijuana tide.

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