In spite of extreme opposition from current sitting Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted in favor of a budget bill supporting the use of marijuana for medical purposes.  The bill proposed by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) aims to shield and protect medical marijuana programs from federal law enforcement in the 28 states where medical marijuana is legal.

The passing of the law was prompted by a letter from Sessions back in May where he requested that the Department of Justice not be restrained in any way from using its funding to “crack down” on any and all violations of federal marijuana laws.


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Sessions writes –

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“I write to renew the Department of Justice’s opposition to the inclusion of language in any appropriations legislation that would prohibit the use of Department of Justice funds or in any way inhibit its authority to enforce the Controlled Substances Act.


I believe it would be unwise 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.”

The amendment to the 2018 Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill passed by a voice vote and prohibits the Justice Department from using funds to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

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Tom Angell, Chairman of Marijuana Majority – a pro legalization group, strongly rebuked Sessions’ directive to focus American tax dollars on enforcement of Federal laws that would lead to a crackdown on medical marijuana programs –

“This vote is not only a blow against an outdated Reefer Madness mindset. It is a personal rebuke to Jeff Sessions. The attorney general, in contravention of President Trump’s campaign pledges and of public opinion, specifically asked Congress to give him the power to arrest and prosecute medical marijuana patients and providers who are following state laws. A bipartisan group of his former Senate colleagues just said no. A majority of states now allow medical cannabis, and we will not allow drug warriors in the Justice Department to roll back the clock. The war on marijuana is ending, even if Jeff Sessions doesn’t realize it yet.”

Sen. Leahy maintains such enforcement as Sessions is proposing is a federal overreach to a significant degree since many states have already voted to legalize the plant.

He states –

“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.” 

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However, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), interjected that while civil liberties and states’ rights are important, he also believes that telling the DOJ not to enforce federal laws goes against legal principles.

He states –

“If Congress wants to tell the Department of Justice to stop enforcing the medical marijuana laws, then it should change the authorization within the Judiciary Committee, not through an appropriations provision.” 

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) states of the measure that he is not expecting a fight on this matter when the amendment is presented to the House Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill.

He states –

“The number of states that are legalizing at least the medical use of cannabis is overwhelming now. Public opinion has always spoken on this issue. I think people will listen to their own constituents rather than Sessions.”

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