WASHINGTON, D.C.–In order to avoid the Department of Justice meddling with adult-use cannabis programs, an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2023 was approved by the House Committee on Appropriations this week.
With the non-committee support of former supporters Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Tom McClintock (R-CA), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), the bipartisan amendment was introduced by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and David Joyce (R-OH). It would prohibit the DOJ from using resources to obstruct the ability of states, territories, tribal governments, or the District of Columbia to implement laws and regulations governing the legal and regulated production
Although it was included in the yearly budget omnibus for the past two years, this amendment was accepted by the whole House of Representatives and has not yet been incorporated into the final legislation. Since 2014, Congress has passed annual funding bills containing a clause preventing the Department of Justice from unjustly prosecuting people who adhere to state medical cannabis programs. Since 2018, that clause has been a part of the base appropriations legislation.
“The people involved in regulated cannabis programs in the growing number of states that are leading the way on this issue deserve to know whether the federal government will actively get in the way of their continued successes,” said NORML Political Director Morgan Fox. “As federal lawmakers steadily work to determine the best way to finally end cannabis prohibition and undo the damage it has caused.” The majority of Americans who support the legalization and regulation of cannabis will feel much more heard if these provisions are included in the federal budget, which will help provide people, businesses, and state governments some piece of mind.
According to Congressman Blumenauer, “Congress must recognize the decision of the voters and stop costly Department of Justice prosecution of those complying with their particular state’s or tribe’s cannabis regulations.” I led the effort to create this provision, which safeguards state- and tribal-legal programs that have passed legislation to do away with probationary practices and permit the creation of both adult-use and medical cannabis programs. I value my colleagues Representatives McClintock, Lee, Joyce, and Norton’s cooperation and leadership in advancing this significant language today.
From 2013 to 2018, when former Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked the Cole Memo, official DOJ internal instructions to de-prioritize prosecutions of anyone acting in conformity with state cannabis laws was in existence. Attorney General Merrick Garland has reaffirmed his stance that interfering with state cannabis programs is a waste of DOJ resources as late as April. Federal prosecutors have a great lot of latitude in terms of the charges they pursue because such instruction, regrettably, has not been formally reaffirmed under the present Administration and does not have legal validity.
Currently, adult use of cannabis is legal in 19 states, the District of Columbia, and a number of territories, and 37 states have medicinal cannabis legislation that are actually enforced. Polling on a national and state level reveals strong majority support for legalizing cannabis.