U.S. Senator Tim Kaine joined Senator Michael Bennett and 16 colleagues in a letter to Senate Committee on Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MI) and Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), urging them to respect states’ laws regarding the regulation of marijuana when finalizing fiscal year 2018 appropriations.
The majority of states have some form of reduced restrictions on marijuana. Recognizing this, the Department of Justice has issued a series of guidance memoranda over the past several years outlining a federal-state framework upon which citizens rely to establish legitimate businesses. However, on January 4, 2018, the Attorney General rescinded this guidance. In this week’s letter, the lawmakers requested that fiscal year 2018 appropriations respect states’ laws in order to revert to the previous framework for marijuana regulations.
The senators wrote that rescinding years of guidance has created “disruption, confusion and uncertainty throughout the country. Citizens who have been acting in good faith based on federal and state assurances now feel exposed. This disruption may deny medications to the sick, push individuals back into illicit markets, and nullify the previously-effective regulations – all while thwarting the democratically-expressed will of the states.”
“It is our hope that this fiscal year 2018 appropriations will alleviate the turbulence the Attorney General’s abrupt decision has caused and that the appropriations will help preserve the strong regulatory frameworks the states have created,” the senator continued. “Doing so will provide the opportunity to pursue federal legislation that both protects the legitimate federal interests at stake and respects the will of the states – both those that have liberalized their marijuana laws and those that have not.”
In November 2017, Kaine co-sponsored two bills to expand research looking into the medical benefits of marijuana, including a focus on whether it’s a safe alternative to opioids. Kaine co-sponsored the MEDS Act, which would ease researcher’s access to marijuana for studies on the medical benefits of cannabis. Kaine also co-sponsored the Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act, which would require the Attorney General to make a determination as to whether cannabidiol should be a controlled substance and expand research on the potential medical benefit of cannabidiol and other marijuana components.
In addition to Kaine and Bennett, the signatories of the letter include U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO), Dan Sullivan )R-AK), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-WV), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Duckworth (D-WI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Edward Markey (D-MA).