Senators Include Medical Marijuana Protections In Justice Department Bill

For the first time ever, a provision protecting state medical marijuana laws is being included in base funding legislation for the U.S. Department of Justice.

Photo by Tom Sydow

Photo by Tom Sydow

While the provision in question has been federal law since 2014, in years past its enactment has required votes on the House floor or in a Senate committee. But now, in a dramatic sign of the rapidly changing politics of cannabis , the budget rider is part of the initial spending bill for the Justice Department as introduced by Republican Senate leaders.

“It’s taken years of hard work by patients and their advocates, but we’ve finally reached the point where even in a U.S. Senate controlled by Republicans, a medical marijuana provision is not considered a poison pill and its support requires no further debate,” Don Murphy, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in an interview.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies approved Fiscal Year 2019 spending legislation including the measure on Tuesday. A full committee vote on the overall bill is expected on Thursday.

The House Appropriations Committee inserted the medical marijuana protections into its version of the Justice Department bill by a voice vote last month. That means the provision is all but certain to end up in the final FY19 appropriations legislation that is sent to President Trump for his signature later this year, clearing the way for states to keep implementing medical marijuana programs without federal interference through at least September of next year.

“The Senate Appropriations Committee finally read the writing on the wall and accepted the inevitable, that allowing the Department of Justice to interfere with state-legal medical marijuana programs is bad policy and losing politics,” Justin Strekal, political director

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