Congress Protects Medical Marijuana From Jeff Sessions In New Federal Spending Bill
Medical marijuana patients and businesses that follow state laws will continue to be protected from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the federal drug agents that work for him under a provision contained in new must-pass legislation revealed on Wednesday.
The policy, which has been federal law since 2014, bars the U.S. Department of Justice from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. Its continuance was in question, however, after Sessions specifically asked Congress not to extend it and House leaders blocked a vote on the matter.
But the rider, which cleared a key Senate panel last year, is now attached to a bicameral deal to fund the federal government's operations through the rest of Fiscal Year 2018, which ends on September 30.
The new bill, which the House is expected to vote on as soon as Thursday, also continues existing provisions shielding state industrial hemp research programs from federal interference.
In a related move, a bipartisan group of members of Congress is stepping up the push to include the medical marijuana protections in Fiscal Year 2019 spending legislation.
"We believe such a policy is not only consistent with the wishes of a bipartisan majority of the members of the House, but also with the wishes of the American people," 62 lawmakers wrote in a letter to House appropriations leaders last week.
In January, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded a separate Obama-era Justice Department memo that has generally cleared the way for states to implement their own marijuana laws without federal interference.
Given that action, some members of Congress want to go even further than the current medical cannabis protections in spending legislation by adding a new provision that protects all state marijuana laws -- including those that allow recreational use and businesses -- from federal interference.