Senate Votes To Shield Medical Marijuana States From Federal Crackdown

A Senate committee amended a spending bill to protect people in states with medical marijuana laws from prosecution over prescription pot.
Posted at 7:04 PM, Jul 28, 2017

A new Senate committee vote aims to make it tougher for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to crack down on medical marijuana industries in states where it's legal.

The Senate Appropriations Committee tacked an amendment onto an upcoming budget bill that prohibits the Justice Department from using its funding to stop states from implementing their own medical pot laws.

This comes after Sessions wrote a letter asking the Senate not to restrict this funding. He said it "would be unwise" for Congress to tie the DOJ's hands "particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime."

But Sessions doesn't have much support on that. A Quinnipiac University poll from April found 94 percent of voters say marijuana should be legal — as long as a doctor prescribes it.

And the amendment's author, Sen. Patrick Leahy, said the department has bigger fish to fry.

Some senators who voted against the amendment argued it should be passed through different channels. Alabama's Richard Shelby said Congress should "change the authorization within the Judiciary Committee, not through an appropriations provision."

The House has passed a similar amendment in every budget since 2014. President Donald Trump even signed a bill containing that amendment, but the White House signaled it might not abide by that provision.