Senators Call on Senate Appropriators to Respect State Marijuana Laws

Sens. Mazie K. Hirono and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) urged Senate Committee on Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to include provisions that require the federal government respect states’ laws regarding the regulation of marijuana when finalizing fiscal year 2018 appropriations. Congress has until Friday, March 23, 2018, to craft final fiscal year 2018 appropriations bills.

The majority of states, including Hawai‘i, have some form of reduced restrictions on marijuana. Recognizing this, under President Obama the Department of Justice has issued a series of guidance memoranda over the last several years outlining a federal law enforcement priorities that provided state and local governments and citizens a framework upon which citizens rely to establish legitimate businesses. However, on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, the Attorney General rescinded this guidance.

The Senators wrote that rescinding years of guidance has created “disruption, confusion, and uncertainty throughout the country. Citizens who have been acting in good faith based on federal and state assurances now feel exposed. This disruption may deny medications to the sick, push individuals back into illicit markets, and nullify the previously-effective regulations – all while thwarting the democratically-expressed will of the states.”

“It is our hope that the fiscal year 2018 appropriations will alleviate the turbulence the Attorney General’s abrupt decision has caused and that the appropriations will help preserve the strong regulatory frameworks the states have created,” the Senators continued. “Doing so will provide the opportunity to pursue federal legislation that both protects the legitimate federal interests at stake and respects the will of the states – both those that have liberalized their marijuana laws and those that have not.”

The letter was also signed by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Edward Markey (D-Mass.).

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