Two members from the House of Representatives are asking for an investigation regarding the Department of Justice’s focus on medicinal cannabis providers and patients. Sam Farr, a California Democrat, andDana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, believe the DOJ is in violation of federal law.
The two politicians created an amendment that prevents the DOJ from using its funding to target state-legal medical cannabis programs. The provision gained congressional support and became part of the federal spending bill, which President Obama signed last December. Though the annual funding bill is set to expire, lawmakers reintroduced an identical cannabis provision in June, and the House promptly passed the measure.
Despite this chain of events, the letter from representatives Farr and Rohrabacher reads:
“The Department has continued to pursue and prosecute individuals and businesses for involvement with medical marijuana in states where it is legal.”
Patrick Rodenbush, a Justice Department spokesperson, told the LA Times that the cannabis amendment prohibited the entity from “impeding the ability of states to carry out their medical marijuana laws,” and did not “impact our ability to prosecute private individuals or private entities who are violating the Controlled Substances Act.”
In response, the letter reads,
“Mr. Rodenbush’s interpretation is clearly a stretch. The implementation of state law is carried out by individuals and businesses as the state authorizes them to do. For DOJ to argue otherwise is a tortuous twisting of the text … and common sense.”
The congressmen believe that any DOJ official who claims the amendment states otherwise is disregarding the facts. Furthermore, using federal funding to prevent legally compliant patients and businesses from engaging in medicinal cannabis programs is a flagrant violation of the marijuana provision. While a Justice Department spokesperson acknowledges receiving the letter, the entity will not respond until the document is reviewed.
Earlier in 2015, Rohrabacher and Farr publicly condemned the DOJ’s attempt to shut down Harborside Health Center, a California company that is one of the largest and most respected medicinal cannabis businesses in the United States. Last year in Washington state, the Justice Department targeted a family of medicinal users who claim their 70 plants were solely meant for personal use in their rural Kettle Falls home. Both congressmen believe that the DOJ is overstepping its authoritative limitations and diverting federal funds into unauthorized areas.
Though the DOJ has reeled in its crackdown, it still targets state-legal patients and businesses. The federal government is partially to blame as it continues to equate cannabis with harmful substances such as heroin and crack cocaine. According to a CBS News poll, 86% of Americans support medicinal cannabis. Reflecting the current public opinion, 23 states allow medical use of the plant and its products, while 17 more states have legalized non-psychoactive marijuana extracts. Additionally, four states along with the District of Columbia have lifted their prohibition on recreational cannabis use. With Farr and Rohrabacher’s letter, the hope is to align policy with the public’s current perspective.