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Senate Defies AG Sessions on Marijuana Prosecution

by Countable | 7.31.17

What’s the story?

On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee defied the wishes of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and approved an amendment introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to block the Department of Justice (DOJ) from using funding for federal prosecutions of medical marijuana providers that are legalized by individual states or jurisdictions.

Why does it matter?

Leahy’s amendment may be not welcomed by Sessions, but Congress has approved a similar amendment as part of the budget process every year since 2014. That year’s passage of the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment blocked federal officials from prosecuting state-legal marijuana operators and patients, but it must be renewed every year.

In 2016 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit unanimously ruled that the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment was constitutional.

Leahy’s amendment is attached to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) fiscal year 2018 budget and appears to serve a similar function to Rohrabacher-Farr.

The amendment does not, however, change the federal classification of marijuana as an illegal Schedule 1 controlled substance.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote a letter in May to congressional leaders asking for repeal of Rohrabacher-Farr or the inclusion of any amendments in the appropriations process that would "tie the hands" of DOJ:

"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. 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."

Some senators did vote against the amendment. Newsy reports that Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) said Congress should "change the authorization within the Judiciary Committee, not through an appropriations provision."

According to The Hill, Leahy maintained that the DOJ has bigger fish to fry:

"The federal government can't investigate everything and shouldn’t, and I don’t want them pursuing medical marijuana patients who are following state law. We have more important things for the Department of Justice to do than tracking down doctors or epileptics using medical marijuana legally in their state."

What can you do?

Do you support Congress including protections for state-sanctioned medical marijuana providers in the budget process? Do you think it should be moved out of the appropriations process and handed over to the Judiciary Committee to make a final decision on the legal status of marijuana under federal law?

Use the Take Action button to tell your reps what you think!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Dominic Simpson via Flickr / Creative Commons)

Countable

Written by Countable

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(111)
  • Tracey
    07/31/2017
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    Good step. Now make marijuana legal in the US. The states are making this step already.

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  • Katerina
    07/31/2017
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    Medical marijuana can help so many people with legitimate medical issues -- like epileptics, or others with siezure disorders. I think this is a big step towards being able to get those people help.

    Like (47)
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  • Sync
    07/31/2017
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    Compared even to legal substances like alcohol and tobacco, marijuana is relatively harmless and should be legalized. Those imprisoned for marijuana related charges should be set free.

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  • Kristen
    07/31/2017
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    Nice. Keep the pressure on. Do not let these assholes destroy one more piece of progress.

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  • Rick
    07/31/2017
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    I hope at some point the United States end the Prohibition on cannabis simply because it’s a lot better for pain than opiates. And I know about opiates for 12 years I took them. When I finally quit I was taking 4-80 mg OxyContin and 6-30mg oxycodone if you don’t believe that’s possible I suggest you ask my wife of 38 years. I was a full blown junky but I was a legal junky simply because A doctor made it legal. I stopped cold turkey and after 21/2 weeks of sheer hell. Detoxing at Home is pure mystery. At 60 years old I have chosen the natural pain remedy cannabis is much better for pain. you can condemn me if you want and I am fully aware it’s illegal where I live. As long as I have lived I never understand how our government can make possessing a flower illegal. Alcohol Legal Tobacco Legal Cannabis illegal. Prohibition is it Working And Will Never Work. The Old Adage Supply And Demand if There’s a Demand They’ll always be a supply. Indiana is losing millions in tax dollars. I would prefer to purchase cannabis legally. Until that day comes in Indiana. There are other ways to purchase cannabis. Sincerely Rick Keeley.

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  • Jesse
    07/31/2017
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    Legalize marijuana

    Like (20)
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  • Mark
    07/31/2017
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    Legalize it and make industrial hemp a legal cash crop for farmers. It yields many usable cash crops , bio fuel, edible seeds( I sprinkle them on my morning oatmeal) and fiber for textiles. Hemp requires no pesticides or chemical fertilizers. The hemp seed I buy in the super market is grown in Canada.

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  • Scott
    07/31/2017
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    Nice job Senate. Colorado and Washington are reaping the rewards of legalization and California will be quick to follow, why wouldn't Montana get in on the game? You Republican types (sorry to lump you in Tester) are all about the free market right?

    Like (18)
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  • Truly
    07/31/2017
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    Medical marijuana is so beneficial it is cruel to make it illegal (or stomp on states rights to do so). Thank you to all that renewed this amendment.

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  • Katerina
    07/31/2017
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    Medical marijuana can help so many people with legitimate medical issues -- like epileptics, or others with siezure disorders. I think this is a big step towards being able to get those people help.

    Like (15)
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  • jweland
    08/01/2017
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    Glad to see the Congress is stepping up here. Marijuana should be legalized and taxed. Businesses selling should be able to open bank accounts and do business like other businesses. Those imprisoned for marijuana related charges should be set free.

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  • Jill
    07/31/2017
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    Medical marijuana is legal according to state laws in many states. This amendment is fine where it is but Federal laws need to be amended as well to change it legally. The GOP is for less restrictions for small businesses, well here's a great opportunity for them. Medical marijuana dispensaries are mostly small businesses.

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  • SirRobert
    07/31/2017
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    I am tired of my tax dollars going to fight a war on Marijuana. Billions of dollars have been wasted on surveillance, helicopters, police raids, courts and prisons. States that have legalized are showing great returns with additional tax dollars and reduced costs. Leave them alone and legalize at a federal level. BTW Canada recently legalized are we now going to build another wall?

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  • Chuck
    07/31/2017
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    Congress should move to declassify marijuana as a class one illegal drug. Majority of Americans have come to this conclusion thus the legalization at many state levels. Sessions is still trying to make us all go backwards culturally and socially

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  • Suzi
    07/31/2017
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    I support Sen. Patrick Leahy and Congress including protections for state-sanctioned medical marijuana providers in the budget process. I don't think it should be moved to the Judiciary Committee where it would be repealed.

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  • Mary
    08/01/2017
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    Medical uses for marijuana have been proven to be beneficial with both seizures and chronic pain. Since it is a proven medication you should not criminalize it in any way

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  • AlexRoseSc
    07/31/2017
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    Thank you all so much!

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  • Deirdre
    07/31/2017
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    Yay! Now make marijuana legal

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  • Azrael
    08/01/2017
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    About time How much money does this admin want to waste on arresting people for smoking a joint? We have real problems Use our money on real problems Reefer madness Ridiculous

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  • Frankie
    08/01/2017
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    Legalize marijuana

    Like (4)
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