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Rep. Young and Cannabis Caucus call for pro-pot language in appropriations

Alaska Rep. Don Young joined 42 colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives to ask appropriators to block the Justice Department from enforcing federal drug laws against people complying with state medical marijuana laws.

New Attorney General Jeff Sessions has long been opposed to the legalization of marijuana and has given indications he might push for an escalation of the "war on drugs."

In a letter to Appropriations Subcommittee leaders this month, the lawmakers pushed for language in the fiscal year 2018 appropriations bill to protect medical marijuana users where it is legal under state law.

How that might affect Alaska is unclear, since the state has legalized recreational use of marijuana, freeing users from any state-level need for a doctor's approval.

From left, congressmen Jared Polis, D-Colo., Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Don Young, R-Alaska, and Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., at a press conference announcing the formation of the House Cannabis Caucus on Feb. 16 in Washington, D.C. (Erica Martinson / Alaska Dispatch News)

Committees in the House and Senate supported similar language in 2014 and 2015 respectively, the letter said. It asked appropriators to include the language in 2018 appropriations for commerce, justice, science and related agencies.

"We believe such a policy is not only consistent with the wishes of a bipartisan majority of the members of the House, but also with the wishes of the American people," the letter said.

Such requirements block the Justice Department from spending any federal funds to pursue prosecution. Young has been a co-sponsor of similar amendments in the past.

The group suggested wording that bars the Justice Department from enforcing "federal prohibition involving the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes that are permitted by laws of the state … or to prevent states, the District of Columbia, or U.S. territories from implementing their own laws to permit the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes."

Previous appropriations bills have prevented the District of Columbia from creating new regulations surrounding marijuana.

"Congressman Young says his support serves to benefit members of our nation's veteran community, who have relied on medical marijuana as an alternative to traditional but addictive medications, and his firm belief in the principles of the 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution," according to Young's office.

The 10th Amendment says powers not given to the federal government by the Constitution are reserved "to the states respectively, or to the people."

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