By: Melissa Chapaska

Upon assuming office, Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a letter to Congress requesting it remove the bi-partisan congressional spending protection for state-legal medical marijuana businesses, a move that drew sharp criticism from Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf.

Today, the Senate Appropriations Committee rejected the Attorney General’s request when it voted to include the Department of Justice spending restriction, also referred to as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, as part of the 2018 Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill.

The amendment was offered by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and passed the Appropriations Committee with strong bi-partisan support.

The spending restriction at issue has been in place since 2014. This spending restriction prevents the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) from using funds to pursue prosecution of medical marijuana facilities that are in compliance with state medical marijuana laws. This spending restrictions prevents the DOJ from going after states or jurisdictions that implement “a law that authorizes the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”  As discussed in past blogs, this spending restriction has consistently received strong bi-partisan support, and has survived judicial scrutiny from the 9th Circuit, which affirmed in 2016 that the restriction prohibits the United States Department of Justice from prosecuting medical marijuana businesses in compliance with state law.

While the spending restriction has once again survived the scrutiny of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the battle continues as the amendment must still be approved as part of the final appropriations bill package.

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