Saturday, July 20, 2024

Back Off Jeff Sessions: Congress Includes Marijuana Protections In Bill

If it sounds like you’ve heard this news before, it’s because you have. For the umpteenth time in the past several months, Congress has included the medical marijuana protections known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment in its federal spending bill. This means US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Drug Enforcement Administration can’t touch marijuana businesses and patients associated with medical marijuana until at least September. It is yet another small victory.

First implemented in 2014, the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment is the only document in place that legally prevents the federal government from conducting raids against and prosecuting members of the medical marijuana community. While only a temporary protection, the rider eliminates the possibility of the Justice Department spending tax dollars to harass patients who use medical marijuana and the businesses that serve them.

But Attorney General Sessions has been trying to persuade Congress to ditch the protections.

In 2017, he fired off a letter to House and Senate leaders asking them to vacate their support for the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment. He told them that his request was to ensure the Justice Department has its full power when it comes to enforcing the nation’s drug laws.

“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly amid an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” Sessions wrote. “The Department must be able to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.”

Since the rider was approved once again, does this mean that Congress is dedicated to protecting the sanctity of medical marijuana states? That’s questionable. For the most part, the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment has managed to slide by for the past few years because Congress has not developed a new budget since 2015.

However, the amendment has had its fair share of near misses. Last year, a snag brought on by House leadership forced a conference committee to decide whether the rider should be included in the final budget proposal. It has been going strong ever since. There is even some discussion on Capitol Hill about introducing a separate rider in the near future dedicated to protecting all legal marijuana states. Yet, Congress is still not too concerned about legal marijuana to pass more concrete reforms. When it comes to weed, everything is now either temporary or prohibited.

For now, the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment is part of the $1.3 trillion spending bill that is set to go before President Donald Trump for a signature. It is not known whether the president will support the legislation in ink. There is speculation that the latest budget proposal does not contain enough allocations for the massive border wall Trump has been pushing for since he took over the White House. If he doesn’t sign, the federal government is likely headed for another brief shutdown.

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