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The spending bill passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump on Friday contains language that renews three-year-old restrictions on earmarking federal funds to interfere with state medical marijuana programs, despite Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s continuing negative stance on the spread of marijuana laws.
Marijuana is legal for medical use in 29 states and Washington, D.C. Nine states and Washington have legalized recreational use. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, on par with cocaine and heroin.
The new budget will continue to prevent the Department of Justice from spending resources to target medical marijuana patients and providers who are in compliance with state law, protections that were put in place in 2014 and were set to expire on Sept. 30, according to the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Marijuana Policy Project.
The nonprofit noted Friday that Attorney General Sessions in January rescinded a Department of Justice policy instituted in 2013 that directed federal prosecutors not to enforce federal marijuana laws against individuals and businesses that are in compliance with state medical or adult-use marijuana laws. This move created uncertainty in states where marijuana is legal for adults, but passage of the spending bill ensures that medical marijuana programs will still be protected for the remainder of the fiscal year, officials with the project said in a press release issued Friday.
“Patients across the country will be relieved to hear that Congress has maintained the current policy of allowing states to make their own decisions on medical marijuana policy,” said Matthew Schweich, executive director for the project in a press statement. “A strong majority of American voters oppose federal interference in state-level marijuana laws.”
Officials in several states that have legalized the use of medical and recreational marijuana condemned the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision to double down on enforcement of marijuana laws, with several vowing to defend their rights to legalize marijuana use.