WASHINGTON D.C. 1 June — Lawmakers will introduce a swathe of cannabis-related appropriations bill amendments on Wednesday aimed at curtailing Department of Justice (DOJ) interference with state laws pertaining to cannabis. The amendments form part of the DOJ funding bill, dictating the terms under which the agency may use its federal funding.
Increasingly, as polling continues to show public opinion shifting in support of legalization, appropriations amendments are being used as leverage, moving federal lawmakers toward reform. In 2014 Congress approved for the first time a measure that prohibited the DOJ from using federal funds to interfere with states’ medical marijuana laws. The measure must be renewed annually when the DOJ spending bill expires; California Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R) and Sam Farr (D) are expected to present a renewal amendment this week.
The DOJ could be limited even further. Reps. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) will introduce an amendment preventing the DOJ from using federal funds to interfere with any state marijuana law, including recreational use.
“This amendment will not only protect critically ill medical marijuana patients from federal prosecution but, unlike previous versions, will also apply to adult [recreational] use of marijuana in states where it is legal, like Colorado and Washington,” wrote Dan Riffle, director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, in an email urging supporters to lobby their congressmen for support.
Industrial hemp farming has also received support via an amendment from Oregon Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D) to protect state hemp laws. A similar measure was passed in 2014 after the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) seized shipments of hemp seeds destined for legal research programs in Kentucky and Colorado.
Another amendment targets the costly failed “War on Drugs” by shifting money away from enforcing federal marijuana laws toward resolving the rape kit backlog and funding treatment programs for veterans.