Bipartisan coalition of US senators back medical marijuana protections

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A group of 18 U.S. senators – including 15 Democrats and three Republicans – have sent a formal request to the heads of the Senate Appropriations Committee to reiterate their support for states’ rights when it comes to regulating marijuana.

The letter, which was announced by Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet’s office, comes in advance of what are expected to be heated budget negotiations before a March 23 deadline for a wide-ranging federal spending bill.

A key federal protection for MMJ companies – the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment – could expire if the new budget deal doesn’t include the amendment, which must be renewed annually to prohibit the Department of Justice from prosecuting state-licensed MMJ businesses.

The senators’ letter was also spurred in part by the Jan. 4 Sessions Memo, which threw the U.S. cannabis industry into turmoil and drew Colorado’s other senator – Republican Cory Gardner – into a political standoff with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions over judicial nominees and cannabis policy.

The letter is mostly symbolic, since the Senate Appropriations Committee already adopted language from the amendment during budget talks last year.

The main questions now are whether the House will follow suit, and if not, how can the amendment’s provisions make it into the budget bill before the March deadline.