The powerful Senate Appropriations Committee delivered a disappointing blow to already beleaguered Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The Committee voted on Thursday to extend protections of state medical marijuana and industrial hemp laws against federal interference.
The vote was in defiance of a direct request from Sessions in May, when he asked Congress to eliminate the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which prevents the Justice Department from using federal funds to prosecute marijuana offenses in states that have passed medical marijuana laws.
Thankfully, Sessions’ extreme rhetoric was rejected.
“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” Sessions wrote in the letter to Congress in May, first reported by MassRoots’ Tom Angell.
However, the Senate Appropriations Committee didn’t buy into Sessions’ skewed logic of linking medical marijuana to violence and heroin use.
The Committee rejected Sessions’ request and proceeded to approve the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat from Vermont.
“It is more humane to regulate medical marijuana than to criminalize it,” Leahy said in a brief discussion before the vote. “I don’t want them spending money pursuing medical marijuana patients who are following state law… We have more important things for the Justice Department to do than tracking down doctors or others, [like] epileptics, who are using medical marijuana legally in their state.”
The amendment would add a clause to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies’ (CJS) 2018 fiscal year budget that blocks the Department of Justice from using funding for federal prosecutions of medical marijuana.
The policy has been in effect in every annual spending bill enacted since late 2014.
“This vote is not only a blow against an outdated Reefer Madness mindset, it is a personal rebuke to Jeff Sessions,” said Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority. “The attorney general, in contravention of President Trump’s campaign pledges and of public opinion, specifically asked Congress to give him the power to arrest and prosecute medical marijuana patients and providers who are following state laws. A bipartisan group of his former Senate colleagues just said no.”
Angell continued: “The war on marijuana is ending, even if Jeff Sessions doesn’t realize it yet.”