Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein: “From a legal and scientific perspective, marijuana is an unlawful drug.”

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appeared before the Senate Appropriations committee to discuss the Justice Department’s budget, and was faced with questions on law enforcement, the investigation into Russia’s influence on the 2016 election and a question on the Department’s stance on marijuana.

Rosenstein’s testimony is especially relevant given the revelation that Sessions has requested congressional leaders to undo federal medical marijuana protections that have been in place since 2014, specifically an amendment contained within the federal spending bill. The amendment, previously known as “Rohrabacher-Farr,” now co-sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-California and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, prevents the Justice Department from using funds to hinder the implementation of medical marijuana laws in U.S. states and territories.

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski used her time to ask about marijuana, and the tension between federal law, under which cannabis is illegal, and states like Alaska which have legalized recreational as well as medical marijuana.

Rosenstein’s response: “We do have a conflict between federal law and the law in some states. It’s a difficult issue for parents like me, who have to provide guidance to our kids… I’ve talked to Chuck Rosenberg, the administrator of the DEA and we follow the law and the science. And from a legal and scientific perspective, marijuana is an unlawful drug. It’s properly scheduled under Schedule I. And therefore we have this conflict.”

He continued, “Jim Cole tried to deal with it in that memorandum and at the moment that memorandum is still in effect. Maybe there will be changes to it in the future but we’re still operating under that policy which is an effort to balance the conflicting interests with regard to marijuana, so I can assure that is going to be a high priority for me as the U.S. Attorneys come on board to talk about how to deal with that challenge in the states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana, whether it be for recreational or medical use…

His conclusion: “We’re responsible for enforcing the law. It’s illegal, and that is the federal policy with regards to marijuana.”

Murkowski responded only, “Confusing.”

Rosenstein will appear before the House Appropriations committee at 2 p.m. ET. Follow along at the Cannabist live blog.

See the full clip of his response.

This story is developing and will be updated.

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