Back in May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked Congress to repeal the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which prevents the federal government from interfering in state laws that legalize marijuana. It bars them from using federal funds to investigate, enforce, prosecute, or persecute anyone using, carrying, growing, transporting, or selling cannabis in states where it is legal for them to do so.
He may want to override Rohrabacher-Farr, but he is meeting staunch resistance from all walks of society, including politicians and citizens. Sessions claims a link between marijuana and violent crime, and he wants to keep weed illegal so that the Department of Justice can investigate and arrest criminals unhindered. Fortunately, the Senate opted to uphold the rights of states and civilians in this matter.
Conflict of Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment and Federal Marijuana Laws
On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted in favor of an amendment to a budget bill that prevents federal interference in the medical marijuana programs of states where cannabis is legal for medical use. The federal government may not pursue anyone for marijuana-related activities in any of these states, and it may not use federal funds to try.
The amendment, part of the 2018 Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill, passed in the Senate by a voice vote. It forbids the Justice Department from allocating any of its funds toward preventing states from creating their own laws permitting the use, possession, cultivation, and distribution of medical marijuana.
According to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the person offering the amendment, “The federal government cannot investigate everything and should not, and I do not want them pursuing medical marijuana patients who are following state law.” He argued that there are more legitimate and serious threats for the Department of Justice to focus its limited resources.
He went on to state that “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.” However, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., argued that although the rights of states and civil liberties are important, it goes against legal principle to tell the Department of Justice not to enforce its federal laws.
He said, “If Congress wants to tell the Department of Justice to stop enforcing medical marijuana laws, then it should change the authorization within the Judiciary Committee, not through an appropriations provision.” Despite Attorney General Jeff Sessions sending a letter in May asking the Senate and House not to stop the Department of Justice from funding enforcement, the amendment passed against him.
In the letter, Sessions wrote, “I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of a historic drug epidemic and the potential long-term uptick in violent crime.” The Washington Post later confirmed the letter, which Massroots first obtained.
He continued to say, “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.” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., the amendment’s sponsor and namesake, has plans to reoffer the amendment to the House Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill, which passed this month.
When asked if he expects a floor fight, where he will have to offer the amendment, Rohrabacher reiterated that he does not want to fight, “but if there is one, clearly we will win. 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.”