Congress is repeating history by yet again blocking the Justice Department from spending any money that interferes with state medical marijuana laws.
In their recently revealed budget bill, lawmakers included a section, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, that allows states to carry on with crafting their own medical marijuana policies without fear of federal intervention. The bill, which funds the government through the end of September, is expected to pass this week.
Here’s the full text of the marijuana provision:
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.
It’s not uncommon to find this tucked into a budget bill; legislators have been renewing the medical marijuana provision in every consecutive budget since it initially passed back in 2014. However what it reveals is that Congress is not interested in stepping up federal oversight of state marijuana laws under the Trump administration, even as U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions implies that he wants to crackdown on marijuana laws.
He issued an ominous warning back in February to states with legalized marijuana. “States, they can pass the laws they choose,” Sessions said at a 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.”
He has also said that “good people don’t smoke marijuana” and that cannabis is only “slightly less awful” than heroin. Last year, heroin was responsible for nearly 13,000 fatalities. Still, top this day no one has ever died from overdosing in marijuana.
Jeffrey Zucker, president of the cannabis business strategy firm Green Lion Partners, praised lawmakers for sticking with the status quo.
“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,” Zucker stated. “Operators can relax a bit knowing their hard work isn’t for naught and their employees’ jobs are safe.”
In theory, Sessions could still take action against states that have legalized recreational marijuana. Eight states and the District of Columbia have laws like this, and they are not shielded by the language in the budget bill.