Rep. Jared Polis has a plan to keep the feds from raiding and prosecuting marijuana businesses in states that have voted to legalize the drug.
The Boulder Democrat hopes to attach an amendment to Congress’ annual spending bill for the U.S. Department of Justice that would essentially tie Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ hands when it comes to using federal funds to go after states following their own cannabis rules.
“If we successfully attach it and it becomes law, no attorney general — despite what they might want to do — would be able to use the funds that Congress gave them to crack down on activities that are legal under state law with regard to marijuana,” Polis said Wednesday. “When those funds run out and there’s a new appropriations bill the next year, we’d attach the same language.”
The titular McClintock-Polis Amendment, named after Polis and Rep. Tom McClintock, R-California, is the best bet to keep Sessions from turning negative comments about marijuana into raids and prosecutions related to the drug, Polis said.
In a speech Wednesday in Virginia, Sessions said, “I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store. And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana — so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful. Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life.”
Polis called the comments “ridiculous” and said that Sessions was “spouting” “nonsense.”
“Obviously, in Colorado marijuana is not sold in every corner store. That’s ridiculous,” he said. “It’s a straw man. It’s obviously a false fact that the Attorney General of the United States, Jeff Sessions, seems to believe and it’s driving potential crack downs that could hurt everyday Coloradans as well as those who work in the marijuana industry.”
Marijuana sales in Colorado topped $1 billion in 2016, according to state data. The Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project advocates for marijuana businesses in Colorado and the U.S. overall. The organization believes the McClintock-Polis Amendment is one of the best ways to protect the industry until a larger fix can be found.
The Marijuana Policy Project expects the spending bill for the Department of Justice to come before Congress in the spring and summer. Polis said he was unsure if and when the so-called “commerce, justice, science and related agencies appropriations” bill would come before the House, but he said it would likely be before the end of September.
An attempt to pass the McClintock-Polis Amendment failed once before. In 2015, the House rejected the legislation with a 206-222 vote.
“I’m very confident that with more states than ever legalizing marijuana this last election and with a lot of new members of congress who are likely more supportive of marijuana law reform than older members we’ll have a majority and pass this amendment when we have a chance to bring it to the floor,” Polis said.
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