Congress Support for State Legal Marijuana May Increase in September Vote

Congress support for state legalized medical cannabis seems to be growing. Votes to keep funding from Jeff Sessions and the DOJ’s desire to interfere in state legalized medical cannabis has increased each time they have voted on the measure.

Senator Cory Booker is now making a large push to have the federal government legalize cannabis nationally through the Marijuana Justice Act. His promotion of legalizing cannabis may motivate congress to vote even more in favor of keeping Jeff Sessions away.

Congress will likely renew protections next month for state medical marijuana laws — but pro-pot lawmakers and advocates are still watching nervously in case Attorney General Jeff Sessions launches a last-minute sabotage campaign.

For nearly three years now, Congress has maintained a policy prohibiting the Justice Department from using federal funds to prevent states allowing medical marijuana – which now number 29 plus the District of Columbia – from carrying out their own laws.

The amendment, offered by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), will soon expire unless Congress renews it. And it seems likely lawmakers will include the language in a spending bill keeping the government open past Sept. 30, with one possible hiccup – intervention by Sessions, who’s famously known for his abhorrence to cannabis.

Sessions, who prepared a speech in April whose initial text (later revised) called marijuana “only slightly less awful” than heroin, apparently asked congressional leaders to undo the state medical marijuana protections in a letter that became public in June. In that letter, Sessions argued the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment would restrict the DOJ from enforcing the federal Controlled Substances Act.

“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. “The 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.”

Yet Sessions is up against a Congress filled with an unprecedented number of pro-pot lawmakers from a record number of states where it’s legal.

Last November’s election brought sweeping victories for the pro-marijuana crowd: Seven states plus the District now allow recreational use after voters in California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada approved such measures. And four more states – Florida, North Dakota, Arkansas and Montana – approved medical use laws, making it legal in more than half the states for doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients.

It’s notable that each time the House has approved the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer language, it’s been by increasingly wider margins. The protections for state medical marijuana laws were included with little controversy in the spring spending bill. And last month, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed such protections, offered by Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), by voice vote.

“This is the most sympathetic Congress we’ve ever had to issues of cannabis,” Blumenauer told me.

Blumenauer said he’s had no concrete assurances yet from GOP leaders that they’ll include the protections in the spending bill they need to pass by Oct. 1 in order to keep the government funded (and in his Arizona rally remarks last night, Trump  suggested he’d be open to a shutdown over funding for his border wall). But Blumenauer is “reasonably confident” the language will ultimately be renewed, barring an intervention by Sessions.

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Source: MJFeed

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