A bipartisan group of 16 U.S. senators, including Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, want the full-year spending bill now being drafted to prevent the Trump administration from enforcing federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized the drug.
In a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Mich., and ranking Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the senators took aim at Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ January announcement that he would no longer let states enforce their own laws but require federal prosecutors to consider marijuana cases as they would any other criminal actions.
The announcement “rescinded years of guidance, creating disruption, confusion, and uncertainty throughout the country,” the senators wrote.
“Citizens who have been acting in good faith based on federal and state assurances now feel exposed,” the letter said. “This disruption may deny medications to the sick, push individuals back into illicit markets, and nullify the previously-effective regulations – all while thwarting the democratically-expressed will of the states.”
Previous Justice Department spending bills have blocked the agency from spending any money on medical marijuana, but now many states, including New Jersey, are either considering legalizing it for recreational use or have already done so.
The provision has been renewed annually since 2014. It prevents the Justice department from spending any money to prevent New Jersey and 45 other states “from implementing a law that authorizes the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”
As chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-11th Dist., also will shape the final spending bill. His aide, Steve Wilson, did not respond to a question on whether the lawmaker would support such a provision on marijuana.
In addition to Booker and Menendez, those signing the letter were Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska; Kamala Harris, D-Calif.; Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii; Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.; Rand Paul, R-Ky.; Ben Cardin, D-Md.; Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, D-Mass.; Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Tim Kaine; D-Va.; and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.