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House passes measure that would protect pot states from DOJ

Posted On: Jun. 21, 2019 11:45 AM CST


The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday voted 267-165 on an amendment that aims to restrict the Department of Justice from interfering with the states that have legalized marijuana. 

The measure was co-sponsored by Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Portland, who has been calling for the reclassifying of marijuana, labeled an illegal Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act along with cocaine and heroin.

The amendment, which still needs Senate approval, follows a 2013 memo issued by the Department of Justice, which set a policy that federal prosecutors would not enforce U.S. drug policies over state programs when it comes to marijuana.

To date, 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana and 10 states and the district have legalized it for recreational use. Proponents of legalized marijuana have called for better protection for legalized marijuana states, where insurers have grappled with how to pay for medical marijuana — using the federal banking system is illegal — and employers have struggled to maintain drug-free workplace policies when employees with medical marijuana cards may be protected under disability statutes.

Specifically, the latest measure would prohibit the DOJ from spending money to interfere in any tribal cannabis programs, or interfere with tribal cannabis programs within states that have legalized, according to a statement from Rep. Blumenauer’s office. Filed as Amendment 17, it is embedded in the appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2020.

“It’s past time we protect all cannabis programs,” Rep. Blumenauer, co-founder of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said in a statement. “We have much more work to do. The federal government is out of touch and our cannabis laws are out of date.”