Although Attorney General Jeff Sessions is not a fan of marijuana, federal law has prohibited the Justice Department from using any of the funding it receives from Congress to prosecute medical marijuana in any state where it’s legal. Thanks to a new omnibus spending bill that just passed the House and Senate, it’ll stay that way — at least for the moment.
Section 537 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 prohibits the DOJ and the Drug Enforcement Agency from using any funds in the bill to prevent any of the 50 states (and D.C., Guam, and Puerto Rico) from “implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”
That means federal authorities also can’t prosecute patients, caregivers, and businesses that are acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws: Though the act of the same name included the same condition that Congress couldn’t “implement” their own laws, the question remained whether there is a different between allowing a state to implement their own pot laws and not prosecuting cases that involve medical marijuana.
In Aug. 2016, an appeals court ruled that the Act did indeed effectively bar the DOJ from prosecuting medical marijuana cases in the affected states.
Of course, this provision is only as good through this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. At that point, at Congress will once again have to either reauthorize the prohibition or let it expire.
“Congress appears to be growing increasingly comfortable with states adopting their own marijuana policies,” said Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Unfortunately, spending prohibitions like these expire at the end of the fiscal year, so there is still a need for a long-term solution.”