Lawmakers Ask Feds to Investigate Medical Marijuana Interference| 0
A bipartisan duo of federal lawmakers is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to launch an internal investigation into its ongoing interference with state medical marijuana laws despite a Congressional prohibition on such activities.
The federal government “has continued to pursue and prosecute individuals and business for involvement with medical marijuana in states where it is legal despite the clear direction in the law to forswear such activities,” Reps. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (D-CA) write in a letter sent Thursday to Michael E. Horowitz, the Justice Department’s inspector general.
Farr and Rohrabacher are the lead sponsors of an amendment to a federal spending bill covering the Justice Department which says that no funds appropriated by the legislation may be used to prevent states “from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”
After several unsuccessful attempts to attach the amendment to annual spending bills, it was first approved by the U.S. House of Representatives last year by a bipartisan margin of 219-189, and was signed into law by President Obama. This year, the proposal got an even bigger tally of support in the House — 242-186 — and was additionally approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee by a vote of 21 -9. Congress is still completing work on those overall funding bills, but the large margins of support in both chambers mean that there’s a good chance the prohibition will be enacted into law again through legislation covering Fiscal Year 2016.
Yet, despite the strong show of support for states’ medical marijuana rights in Congress, federal officials dispute the legal meaning of the amendment and some prosecutions of people for state-legal activity have continued.
Asserting that the ongoing enforcement activities constitute violations of both their amendment and the federal Anti-Deficiency Act, Farr and Rohrabacher are asking Horowitz to “immediately investigate the Department’s expenditure of funds to prosecute these cases.”
Farr and Rohrabacher’s new request for an investigation was first reported by Jacob Sullum at Reason.
The Justice Department has taken the position that the spending bill provision doesn’t actually prevent it from going after people who act in accordance with state marijuana laws and merely means that the federal government cannot impede “the ability of states to carry out their medical marijuana laws.”
But the lawmakers say the Department’s interpretation of federal law is a “tortuous twisting of the text” of their amendment. “The implementation of state law is carried out by individuals and businesses as the state authorizes them to do,” write Farr and Rohrabacher.
They say the Congressional intent of the prohibition is clear, as evidenced by statements from both supporters and opponents of medical marijuana during the House floor debate that took place just prior to its passage.
“Any official of the Department who interprets” the amendment differently “is doing so knowingly and willfully, without regard for the facts,” they write.
Read the lawmakers’ full letter here.