Congressmen are calling for the federal government to ban interference in state-legal cannabis
A non-partisan group of 44 House members sent a letter to congressional leaders Thursday calling for a ban on federal interference in cannabis activities that are legal under state or tribal law. The letter, addressed to the senior members of the House Appropriations Committee’s Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) subcommittee, was signed by dozens of representatives and composed by Earl Blumenauer and Barbara Lee, co-chairs of the Cannabis Caucus in Congress directed with Tom McClintock and Eleanor Holmes Norton.
In the letter, Members of the House wrote that as we draw up budgets for 2022, “We respectfully request that you include language that prevents the Justice Department from prosecuting those who comply with their state or tribal marijuana laws. We also ask that you keep the current language, which prohibits the Department of Justice from prosecuting those who comply with their state’s medical marijuana laws. “
The writers of the letter further noted that almost all states have passed some sort of reform of cannabis policy, writing: “To date, 48 states have passed laws that, to varying degrees, relax their bans on the use of marijuana or its components, such as CBD oil. Of these, 36 states have medical marijuana programs, and 17 of them have adult programs. ”
Respect the will of the people with the federal ban on cannabis interference
Representatives added that in most of the states where bans have been eased, reforms to cannabis policy have been approved by voters. The letter called on the subcommittee to respect the will of the people by protecting state legal cannabis from federal prosecution.
“Most of these laws were passed through electoral initiatives,” the letter continued. “We believe that the federal government should not interfere with these programs and the will of the citizens of these states.”
Members of Congress also noted that in 2019 and 2020 the House passed the law prohibiting enforcement of state cannabis operators in the legislation known as the Blumenauer-McClintock-Norton-Lee Amendment. The change, however, was ruled out by draft bills from the GOP-led Senate Funds Committee, chaired by Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, one of the few states that has not yet taken action to reform cannabis policy.
Additional Congressional leaders who signed the letter include Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jefferies; and leaders of top house committees such as the chairman of the judiciary, Jerry Nadler; Supervisory and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney; Nydia Velazquez, Small Business Chairwoman; Raúl Grijalva, chairman for natural resources; Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal; as well as Dean of the House Don Young and dozens of other members of the House.
Justin Strekal, the political director of the National Organization for the Reform of the Marijuana Law (NORML), called on Congress to put a ban on federal interference.
“The importance of this bipartisan change cannot be emphasized enough as nearly half of all Americans live in a jurisdiction where adult cannabis use is legal under state law and supports programs over 321,000 full-time positions,” Strekal said in a press release from the advocacy group for cannabis policy reform. “It is time for Congress to acknowledge this reality and ensure that these safeguards are included in the final expenditure statement.”
Similar guidelines have protected medical marijuana operators for years
A similar federal policy to enforce the ban on federal interference in state medical marijuana laws, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, was passed in the House of Representatives in May 2014 after six previous attempts to pass the measure failed. The amendment was passed under a collective spending bill passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in December this year. The legislation, later known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, was renewed regularly and will continue to protect medical marijuana operators through fiscal 2021.