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Rohrabacher praises Sessions, urges AG nominee to respect federal marijuana law

Jan 11, 2017

WASHINGTON – Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, speaking on the House of Representatives floor Wednesday, praised President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions, for his performance in his Senate confirmation hearing. Citing the Alabama Republican’s commitment to enforcing all federal law, the congressman pointed to existing prohibitions against the Justice Department prosecuting medical marijuana users in states where the practice is legal.


Rep. Rohrabacher’s remarks:

Mr. Speaker—

I rise today to praise Senator Jeff Sessions, President-elect Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, for his inspiring testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. During his confirmation hearing, Senator Sessions was questioned on a wide range of issues that will be under his purview as our Attorney General. Included in the numerous topics covered were questions about his intentions to enforce federal law as it pertains to marijuana policy.

Senator Sessions is a patriot and a man of the highest moral integrity. I have complete confidence that, if confirmed as the next Attorney General, he will faithfully enforce our laws—not just those that he agrees with, but all laws duly enacted by Congress.

As it pertains to marijuana policy, Senator Sessions promised to do the same. During exchanges on the topic of marijuana policy with both Senators Leahy and Lee, Senator Sessions indicated his intention to follow federal law. At one point, he indicated that if Congress no longer desires to make the possession and distribution of marijuana illegal act, “Congress should pass a law to change the rules.”

At this time, I feel compelled to point out that federal law has been changed and currently prohibits the Department of Justice from spending appropriated funds to prosecute individuals who are acting in compliance with their state’s medical marijuana laws. In fact, such a provision has been the law of the land since December 2014, when Congress passed, and President Obama signed, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act.

The Act included a provision passed on the House floor as an amendment earlier that year by a vote of 219-189, which was followed by a vote on a similar provision the following year that passed by a wider margin of 242-186. That provision, offered by myself and co-sponsored by my colleague Sam Farr, was aimed at preventing the federal government from superseding state law when it comes to the use of medical marijuana. The provision currently remains in effect through April 28, though I expect it to be renewed moving forward. With the House and Senate both on record, and Mr. Trump’s stated position that the issue should be left to the states, I am confident that the provision will be renewed.

While the Department of Justice under the current Administration has attempted to interpret Rohrabacher-Farr as narrowly as possible, federal courts have backed a much more reasonable interpretation of the provision. In August of last year, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in U.S. vs. McIntosh that federal funds cannot be used to prosecute those in compliance with their state’s medical marijuana laws. 

This provision will be part of American law as long as it is renewed. If Congress continues to make this part of the law, I am confident that as Attorney General, Jeff Sessions will abide by the provision and thus respect state medical marijuana laws, as dictated by Congress and reinforced by the judiciary.  As he rightfully pointed out in his testimony yesterday, it will be his duty to see to it that the laws under his purview as Attorney General are faithfully executed, and this includes the Rohrabacher-Farr limitation on funding to prosecute those in compliance with their state’s medical marijuana laws.

And finally, let us remember that candidate Trump stated during the last election that medical marijuana should be left to the states.  I am confident that Attorney General Sessions will obey the law and his actions will reflect the position of his new boss.

I yield back.


Kenneth Grubbs, 202-225-2415