Wyden: Use Looming Shutdown Fight to Protect Legal Weed


Lawmakers could use an upcoming spending fight to void Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ latest crackdown on marijuana use.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) reacted on Thursday to Sessions rescinding an Obama-era guidance that relaxed federal enforcement of marijuana laws in states that had legalized recreational use of the substance.

In a statement, Wyden called the Attorney General’s move part of an “extremist anti-marijuana crusade.”

“Any budget deal Congress considers in the coming days must build on current law to prevent the federal government from intruding in state-legal, voter-supported decisions,” Wyden added.

The government is set to run out of money on January 19, barring passage of a new spending agreement. Republican and Democratic leaders in both houses are currently trying to negotiate a deal.

Congress could heed Wyden’s call and upend Sessions’ directive by expanding a law previously agreed upon in 2014. Known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, the measure blocks the Department of Justice from using appropriated funds to prosecute medical marijuana establishments and users within states that have legalized the activity.

There are currently 29 states, plus the District of Columbia, that have legalized medicinal cannabis, and are protected under Rohrabacher-Farr, despite the Attorney General’s new order.

Eight states, however, have gone a step further and legalized weed for recreational use, leaving them outside of Rohrabacher-Farr’s scope.

In a memo to federal prosecutors across the country on Thursday, Attorney General Sessions rescinded a 2013 DOJ guidance issued by former Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole.

The Cole Memo, as it was known, directed prosecutors to not go after marijuana-related activity that is in compliance with state laws.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that the President stands behind his Attorney General’s actions. “The President strongly believes we should enforce federal law,” Sanders said.

Sen. Wyden called it another breach of a campaign pledge.  “Trump promised to let states set their own marijuana policies,” he said in his Thursday statement. “Once again the Trump administration is doubling down on protecting states’ rights only when they believe the state is right.”

Wyden also touted a package of bills he has introduced known as the Path to Marijuana Reform. The legislation would protect marijuana businesses that operate legally within their states, and provide entities with access to credit and tax benefits.

On January 1, California became the latest and largest state to allow the use of recreational marijuana.

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Sam Sacks worked on the Hill as a Congressional staffer, and as a writer and reporter since 2008. He’s been published in Hustler Magazine, which you may have seen but don’t want to admit.


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