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House Rules Committee To Consider Amendment To Keep Feds Out Of State Cannabis Policy

House Rules Committee To Consider Amendment To Keep Feds Out Of State Cannabis Policy

A congressional committee is slated on Tuesday afternoon to consider an amendment aimed at protecting state-approved cannabis programs from federal interference.

Backers of the amendment are trying to add it to the 2020 Commerce-Justice Science spending measure. The proposal is before the U.S. House Rules Committee, which could vote on it on Tuesday.

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What To Know

The amendment, by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Democrat of Oregon, and California Republican Tom McClintock would only protect states from U.S. Justice Department interference over their cannabis programs for a year, because spending bills have to be reauthorized each year.

Even without the amendment, the spending authorization bill already includes language that would prevent the Justice Department from spending money to prevent states from implementing their state-passed medical marijuana laws. That part of the measure wouldn’t affect recreational cannabis laws.

Cannabis industry backers are also separately pushing legislation called the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, which would more broadly and permanently protect state marijuana laws.

Why It's Important

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law though all but three states have legalized cannabis-based products or cannabis to some degree.

While the previous U.S. attorney general, Jeff Sessions, was intent on upholding the federal prohibition on cannabis, the current attorney general, William Barr, said in his Senate confirmation hearing he would respect state laws and an Obama-era policy in the Justice Department to take a hands-off approach.

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