AG Sessions to Congress: Kill medical marijuana protections

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U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked four congressional leaders at the beginning of May to omit key medical marijuana industry protections from a new federal spending bill.

Although the attempt was unsuccessful, the letter – first reported by cannabis-focused social media platform MassRoots – underscores that marijuana businesses are not yet totally safe from possible federal intervention.

Sessions specifically asked that language from the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment not be included in any appropriations bill, or similar provisions, that would “in any way inhibit the (Department of Justice’s) authority to enforce the Controlled Substances Act.”

The amendment, first approved in 2014, bars the DOJ from spending federal funds to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws.

Language from the amendment was included in a spending bill in early May, but the measure is set to expire at the end of September if not renewed by Congress. The amendment essentially guarantees MMJ companies that are compliant with state laws are safe from raids or prosecution by the Drug Enforcement Administration. It does not apply to recreational cannabis businesses.

Nicole L’Esperance, press secretary for U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, confirmed the authenticity of the letter to Marijuana Business Daily. 

She also said Blumenauer – a member of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus – remains confident the MMJ industry protection will survive attempts by Sessions to kill it because of the “broad bipartisan support” for the measure within Congress.

L’Esperance also said the letter wasn’t necessarily an indicator of a larger anti-cannabis policy agenda within the Trump administration because the president hasn’t clearly outlined a specific stance on marijuana.

“It’s definitely something to be alert to, but when you look at this administration, it’s constant whiplash,” she said. “They say one thing and do another … so it’s hard to take one action as an indication of a broader policy issue.”

A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-California, told The Washington Post that “Sessions stands athwart an overwhelming majority of Americans and even, sadly, against veterans and other suffering Americans who we now know conclusively are helped dramatically by medical marijuana.”