U.S. Senate Committee Votes to Prohibit Justice Department From Interfering in State Medical Marijuana Laws
The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved a measure 20-10 on Thursday that is intended to prevent the federal government from interfering in state medical marijuana laws.
The amendment, offered by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) to the Senate version of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, prohibits the Justice Department, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, from using funds to interfere in the implementation of state laws that allow the cultivation, distribution, and use of marijuana for medical purposes. It mirrors the amendment sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) that was approved last week in the House of Representatives. Passage of identical amendments in the House and Senate typically indicates it will be included in the final spending bill Congress sends to President Obama.
This was the first time the amendment had been offered in the Senate. The House has passed it in each of the last two years, and it was codified in the so-called “CRomnibus” funding measure that became law last year. The amendment is similar to the operative provisions of the CARERS Act, introduced in March by Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY).
This is the second time in as many months that the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a marijuana policy reform measure. On May 21, the committee voted to allow doctors within the Veterans Affairs system to formally recommend medical marijuana to veterans.
As MPP previously reported, Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) cosponsored an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act that would make medical use of marijuana legal. MPP’s director of federal policies, Dan Riffle, commented on this amendment last week after predicting action on the bill would be forthcoming. “Poll after poll shows 70-80 percent of Americans support medical marijuana. Even among conservatives, most oppose enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states where marijuana is legal for some purpose. Having two rising stars like Rand Paul and Cory Booker team up to introduce this amendment just shows how popular the issue has become, and that our outdated federal marijuana laws are inevitably going to change.”
However, shortly after this statement, the bill started to run into snags, Denver Westword reports. The chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), delayed the main bill after claiming she felt “caught between White House veto threats and Republican amendments.” Riffle is confident that it isn’t the medical marijuana amendment that is causing the problems. He also expressed that, even without the current bill, the goal is to see a standalone piece of legislation for the medical use of marijuana.