As 4/20 approaches, cannabis advocates say the last days of April are also about the serious business of keeping otherwise legal medical marijuana businesses from being raided by federal authorities.
A recurring budget amendment first passed in 2014, by California U.S. representatives Dana Rohrabacher and Sam Farr, protects legitimate businesses in medical marijuana states from being raided by the feds. The amendment's language, inspired in part by Rohrabacher's argument that military veterans should have access to medicinal pot, cuts off Department of Justice funding for such crackdowns. But the legislation expires April 28, leading to fears that the Trump administration — which has sent mixed messages on legal weed — could invade Golden State pot shops using U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration troops.
The Rohrabacher-Farr protections do not extend to recreational pot businesses, which will be legal in California starting Jan. 1, but observers are anticipating that recreational protections will be proposed soon.
On April 20, pot advocates will participate in a "joint session" outside the U.S. Capitol to rally support for long-shot legislation to end marijuana prohibition and, more urgently, to urge Congress to support the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment. The group DCMJ, which is organizing the demonstration, is offering to give two free joints to legislators, congressional staffers and journalists who attend.
"Giving away joints on Capitol Hill on 4/20 is our part of the fight to keep Rohrabacher-Farr," says Adam Eidinger, co-founder of DCMJ. "I do think that without it, within a month there will be raids all across America on lawful medical marijuana businesses."
Earlier this month Rohrabacher, a Huntington Beach Republican, sent a letter to ranking members of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Committee asking that the marijuana language be included in next year's budget language.
"If he asked for 2017 protections, he didn't ask for them in this letter," Eidinger says. "They're opening the window to raids."
Rohrabacher's office did not respond to a request for comment.
Tom Angell, chairman of the nonprofit Marijuana Majority, said via email that a budget measure covering the rest of this fiscal year (through Sept. 30) could pass before April 28 and that it would include the protections of Rohrabacher-Farr.
NORML political director Justin Strekal agreed, saying, "We do anticipate Rohrabacher-Farr maintaining its status through the end of the fiscal year."
Eidinger says pot users should enjoy their holiday, but they should also remain wary. "The next 10-day period is pivotal," he says.