While federal lawmakers are debating the fiscal year 2018 budget, 66 members of Congress have signed onto a letter to House and Senate leadership urging them to protect state-approved medical cannabis programs from federal interference.
The signatories are a bi-partisan cohort, including 28 Republicans and 38 Democrats. The letter was sent to House Speaker Paul Ryan, ranking House Democrat Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer.
The letter points out the protections – namely the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment – are not just to maintain state programs, but also those in U.S. territories Puerto Rico and Guam. The amendment was first passed in 2014 and has been approved every year since. The amendment bars the Department of Justice from spending funds to crack down on medical cannabis programs that follow the letter of the law. Forty-six states allow some access to medical cannabis, be it whole-plant or CBD.
The amendment was included in a temporary federal spending measure approved in September; however, that budget agreement is only in place until Dec. 8. The Senate Appropriations Committee had approved the amendment as part of the 2018 Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations package, but the House Rules Committee blocked the amendment from receiving consideration from the full chamber. If the amendment is not approved, there will be little to no protection for medical cannabis programs without Congressional action.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent his own letter to Ryan, Pelosi, Schumer, and McConnell in May asking them to oppose the language of the amendment, arguing that the Justice Department “must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.”