DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA - A Senate committee approved an amendment to a budget bill Thursday that would block the DOJ from using funding or resources to target state medical marijuana programs.
The Senate Appropriations Committee on Commerce, Justice Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) approved the amendment by voice vote. It renews protections already in place by Congress that all but legalize medical marijuana in states that allow it within their own jurisdictions.
Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (D-Calif.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced a similar amendment in the House.
"More than half the states have taken a stand and said they want their seriously ill residents to have safe and reliable access to medical marijuana, and today the Senate Appropriations Committee listened," states Don Murphy, director of conservative outreach for the Marijuana Policy Project.
Twenty-nine states plus the District of Columbia and the US territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted medical marijuana laws.
The policy is not new, but it is set to expire. Congress added a similar amendment to an omnibus spending bill in 2014.
If the CJS budget bill passes the Senate, a compromise with the House will need to be reached in a special conference committee. If Congress does not approve a budget by September 30, the old amendment will automatically renew for another year.
"We strongly urge the rest of Congress to do the right thing and include this amendment in the final budget," says Murphy.
"Even if you are one of the few people who don’t support medical marijuana, states should still have the right to help their most vulnerable residents. They should not have to worry about the Department of Justice interfering.” - Don Murphy, Marijuana Policy Project
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a staunch opponent of the amendment and the legalization of marijuana for any reason. He sent a letter to Congress in May urging lawmakers to reject the amendment.
An April Quinnipiac poll found that 94 percent of respondents supported allowing medical marijuana for adults. The poll also found that 73 percent of respondents “oppose government enforcement of federal laws against marijuana in states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana.”