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GOP Senate Justice Department Bill Protects Medical Cannabis

US capitol

Cannabis legalization supporters were understandably displeased when Donald Trump appointed Jeff Sessions as United States Attorney General as the former Alabama senator has a long history of Reefer Madness and supporting the escalation of the failed and racist Drug War. While there are many reasons to oppose plenty of AG Session’s policies, it is clear that he has become more and more isolated on cannabis policy, even from his fellow Republicans. Just after Donald Trump announced his likely support for the STATES Act that would effectively end federal marijuana prohibition, Senate Republicans have included language prohibiting the Justice Department from prosecuting medical cannabis patients and providers in the agency’s spending bill for the first time in history.

Preventing the Justice Department (currently headed by Sessions) from persecuting medical cannabis actors following state law has been added as a committee amendment for a few years now, but including such a provision into the DOJ’s funding bill is another step forward for supporters of sensible cannabis laws. The Senate GOP’s proposal doesn’t go far enough, as it doesn’t protect cannabis consumers and businesses following their state’s adult-use laws, but an amendment that would protect those complying with their jurisdiction’s legalization law could potentially be added later.

Tom Angell reported in Forbes:

“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 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 of NORML, said in an interview. “Looking at the scorecard, today it’s medical freedom: 1; Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his reefer madness ways: 0.”


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.

Just as Bob Dylan sings, “The times, they are a-changin’,” the political fortunes for the cannabis community have definitely improved for the better. The amendment protecting medical marijuana laws from the DOJ was first introduced in 2001 and it didn’t pass until 2014. Four years later, medical protections are baked directly into a  Republican Senate funding bill, a dramatic turnaround that demonstrates the mainstreaming of cannabis, particularly medical marijuana.

With progress in Canada, Germany, Uruguay, and countries around the world, we certainly have tremendous momentum to finally end a failed and harmful war being waged upon the nonviolent cannabis community. However, Reefer Madness prohibitionists like Jeff Sessions won’t give up power easily. We must continue to organize, fight, and keep progressing step by step until we are all free.

The International Cannabis Business Conference combines politics, business, and culture, unlike any other event. While the ICBC prepares marijuana entrepreneurs to succeed in c commerce, we understand the importance of activism and always fighting to maintain laws that keep people out of prison and ensure patients safe access to a safe medicine. Come join us and hear the iconic Henry Rollins talk about our mission for justice at the upcoming ICBC in Vancouver this June 24th to 25th. Get your tickets now before we sell out! After Vancouver, we’ll be heading back to Portland, Oregon, on September 27th-28th. 

Don Murphy, GOP Senate, Jeff Sessions, Republican Party, Tom Angell