How Many Sessions Does it Take to Screw Up Good Policy?

A snowstorm has shutdown most of D.C. today, but Congress is working to pass a budget to keep the government open. Again.

As I’ve written before, there’s more at stake in the budget than just keeping the government up and running. For several years, Congress has refused to fund federal prosecutions of state-legal medical marijuana (a.k.a. “cannabis”) distribution through a rider to the annual budget known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer (originally Rohrabacher-Farr) Amendment.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has previously asked Congress for the funds to go after the people who provide relief to terminally ill and chronic pain patients with cannabis. He’s already made his intentions clear to the Department of Justice that he wants more marijuana prosecutions. As Politico explained in an article today, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX)—no relation—has done his best to oblige the Attorney General’s request through his position on the House Rules Committee.

Both Sessions are remarkably out of step with not just American sentiment, but Republican feelings on medical cannabis:

Despite its perceived association with the political left, medical marijuana is not just a blue-state issue. Ten of the 29 states with legal medical marijuana—and 115 electoral votes—went for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. More than 200 million American residents, roughly 62 percent of the population, live in states where medical marijuana is legal. Nationwide, according to a 2017 CBS poll, 71 percent of Americans—including 63 percent of Republicans—oppose federal interference with state-legal marijuana. Perhaps most telling, a 2017 Quinnipiac poll found that 94 percent of American voters approve of adult medical marijuana use if prescribed by a doctor.

There is no guarantee that the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer will be in the final budget agreement before the Friday deadline. In the midst of the opioid crisis and with so much public (and corroborating scientific) support for medical cannabis as an opioid alternative, failure to attach the rider could be calamitous for suffering patients and an inexplicable unforced error by the Republican majority.