Congress Denies Jeff Sessions Funding To Fight Marijuana Laws

By Kelly Burch 05/03/17

A soon-to-be renewed amendment will temporarily stall Sessions' crackdown on medical marijuana.  

Jeff Sessions
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The congressional budget bill, expected to pass this week, bars the Justice Department from spending any money to interfere with state medical marijuana laws, dealing a blow to the Trump Administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who seemed eager to push back on the growing acceptance of marijuana use throughout the country. 

The bill includes a provision known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which forbids any funds to be used to go after state medical marijuana laws. The amendment has been included on every budget since 2014, and this budget will extend state protections through the end of September. 

The amendment reads:

“None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to any of the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, or with respect to the District of Columbia, Guam, or Puerto Rico, to prevent any of them from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

However, The Denver Channel points out that six states—Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota—are not included on the list of protected entities. The channel reached out to budget writers and the Department of Justice to find out why these states were omitted, but did not receive a response. Of those states, North Dakota and Indiana have medical marijuana laws. 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a hardline stance on marijuana and has insinuated that he may go after states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana. 

“States, they can pass the laws they choose,” Sessions said during a February Justice Department press briefing. “I would just say it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not.”

Proponents of medical marijuana praised the inclusion of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment.

“Medical cannabis patients in the U.S. can rest easy knowing they won’t have to return to the black market to acquire their medicine,” Jeffrey Zucker, president of Green Lion Partners, a cannabis business strategy firm, told The Huffington Post. “Operators can relax a bit knowing their hard work isn’t for naught and their employees’ jobs are safe.”

The budget amendment gives no protection for the eight states and Washington, D.C. that have passed recreational marijuana laws. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.