The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved the Rohrbacher-Blumenauer amendment, offered by Sen. Patrick Leahy, which protects state-approved medical cannabis programs from federal interference. The amendment was introduced as part of the 2018 Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations budget bill, according to a report from the Hill. Specifically, the amendment prevents the Department of Justice from using federal funds to crackdown on the industry.
The vote rebukes a request from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who sent a letter to members of Congress last month urging them to oppose the measure.
Leahy, a Democrat, argued that the Justice Department has more important things to do “than tracking down doctors or epileptics using medical marijuana in their state.”
“The federal government can’t investigate everything and shouldn’t, and I don’t want them pursuing medical marijuana patients who are following state law,” he said in the report.
Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said it was “great to see” the committee members approve the amendment and “now it’s time for the House to do the same.”
“Patients deserve access to care, states deserve respect, and members of the House deserve the opportunity to vote on amendments like this that have the strong support of their constituents,” Smith said in a statement, adding that “more than 90 percent of Americans favor medical marijuana policies.”
The amendment must still be approved by the House committee.