A bipartisan group of 18 senators led by Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner protections for state marijuana laws inserted into legislation funding the federal government.
Precise language in the fiscal year 2018 appropriations can “alleviate the turbulence” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions threw into the legal cannabis industry when he rescinded the so-called Cole Memo on Jan. 4, the senators wrote in the letter sent Tuesday to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
“Doing so will provide the opportunity to pursue federal legislation that both protects the legitimate federal interests at stake and respects the will of the states – both those that have liberalized their marijuana laws and those that have not,” the letter said.
The majority of states have some form of reduced restrictions on #marijuana. In light of AG Sessions rescinding critical guidance for federal-state regulations, we’re urging Senate Approps to respect state laws & alleviate confusion for local govs & biz: https://t.co/WN4McIxlYb
— Michael F. Bennet (@SenBennetCO) February 13, 2018
Following Sessions’ move to rescind Obama-era guidance on federal marijuana enforcement, members of Congress have pushed back and conducted emergency meetings to develop a response — including a spending bill rider.
Inserting language into appropriations legislation protecting state marijuana laws isn’t a new strategy in Congress.
An amendment preventing the Justice Department from using federal funds to prosecute individuals in states where medical marijuana is legal has been included in appropriations bills since 2014. The so-called Rohrabacher-Blumenaeur amendment remains in place, and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., a co-sponsor of the amendment, has said that efforts are ongoing to include the language in upcoming appropriations legislation.
Nearly 70 U.S. representatives signed onto a letter sent by Colorado Democratic Rep. Jared Polis to U.S. House of Representatives leadership Jan. 12 requesting the inclusion of a provision known as the McClintock-Polis Amendment in federal spending legislation. The rider would ensure U.S. Department of Justice funds cannot be used to interfere with states that have authorized some form of marijuana legalization.
Polis subsequently attempted to push the protections into the continuing resolution to fund the government, but was blocked by powerful House Republicans, including fellow Coloradan Rep. Ken Buck.
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