A view of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Brendan Smialowski, AFP/Getty Images)

44 in Congress support effort to keep DOJ handcuffed in medical cannabis states

A bipartisan collection of nearly four-dozen U.S. House members want the feds to maintain their hands-off enforcement position toward states that have legalized medical marijuana.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican lawmaker from California, has spearheaded spending bill amendments that prevent the Justice Department from meddling in medical marijuana states. On Monday, he announced that he is urging the Commerce, Justice and Science committee chiefs to continue that path.

In a letter co-signed by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, and 42 other House of Representatives members, Rohrabacher asked the chair and ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies to include the following language in the fiscal year 2018 spending bill:

None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used to enforce federal prohibitions involving the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes that are permitted by the laws of the state, the District of Columbia, or U.S. territory where the act was committed, or to prevent states, the District of Columbia, or U.S. territories from implementing their own laws that permit the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes.

The language has been included in House appropriations bills since 2014, with a 219-189 vote, and again in 2015, by a 242-186 vote. The Senate Committee on Appropriations adopted similar language in 2015, by a vote of 22-8, and in 2016, by a vote of 21-8, Rohrabacher wrote.

“We believe that the consistent, bipartisan support for such protections against federal enforcement, combined with the fact that similar language has been in place since December 2014, make a strong case for including similar language in your base FY 2018 appropriations bill,” he wrote.

This year’s amendment, previously referred to as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, will carry the name Rohrabacher-Blumenauer, as co-sponsor Sam Farr, D-California, retired last year.

The proposed Rohrabacher-Blumenaeur amendment does not come free of contention.

Members of Smart Approaches to Marijuana Action, an organization that opposes marijuana legalization, have said they would “cross-reference every House member” who signs the letter with reports documenting campaign contributions from the marijuana industry.

“We intend to investigate the legislators who do the pot industry’s bidding,” Kevin Sabet, SAM Action’s president, told The Cannabist Monday. “The American people should know who is doing the bidding of an industry whose goal is to promote addiction for profit.”

The signatories include Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colorado, and Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, who co-founded the Cannabis Caucus with Rohrabacher and Blumenauer; Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who recently introduced the Better Driving Bill to curb driver’s license suspensions for drug offenses; and Rep. Mike Coffman, the Colorado Republican who said he’d “fight the attorney general” on marijuana.

Below is the letter, and a complete list of the signatories by state:

Don Young (R-AK)

Salud Carbajal (D-CA)
Jared Huffman (D-CA)
Duncan Hunter (R-CA)
Barbara Lee (D-CA)
Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
Alan Lowenthal (D-CA)
Tom McClintock (R-CA)
Jimmy Panetta (D-CA)
Scott Peters (D-CA)
Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
Jackie Speier (D-CA)
Eric Swalwell (D-CA)

Mike Coffman (R-CO)
Diana DeGette (D-CO)
Jared Polis (D-CO)
Ed Perlmutter (D-CO)

Darren Soto (D-FL)
Ted Yoho (R-FL)

Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)

Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)

Rod Blum (R-IA)

Thomas Massie (R-KY)

Jamie Raskin (D-MD)

Michael Capuano (D-MA)
Jim McGovern (D-MA)

Justin Amash (R-MI)
John Conyers (D-MI)

Jason Lewis (R-MN)

Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ)

Joseph Crowley (D-NY)
Brian Higgins (D-NY)
Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)

Jacky Rosen (D-NV)
Dina Titus (D-NV)

Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
Peter DeFazio (D-OR)

Steve Cohen (D-TN)

Beto O’Rourke (D-TX)

Denny Heck (D-WA)
Pramila Jayapal (D-WA)

Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.)

Mark Pocan (D-WI)

Don S. Beyer Jr. (D-VA)

Read the medical marijuana letter signed by 44 members of Congress: