Congress Quietly Ends Federal Ban on Medical Marijuana

Conveniently slipped inside a major budgetary spending bill meant to prevent the government from shutting down is an earmarked section that lifts the federal ban on medical marijuana. How tricky.

Excerpt of bill H.R. 83 text reads as:

“Sec. 538. None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana. Sec. 539. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used in contravention of section 7606 (“Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research”) of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Public Law 113-79) by the Department of Justice or the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The Obama administration said they would be not interfere in states medical marijuana laws — which in effect prevented federal agents from going after legal medical pot shops in a de facto manner. But now it is written law. This means that states with medical marijuana laws don’t have to be fearful of federal agents raiding and shutting down legal dispensaries…and charging them with federal drug crimes. The implications of which runneth over.

Having this measure of decriminalization on the books officially means that future administrations would have to overturn the law in order to change it. Not an easy task. This also means that as the federal government loosens its grip on prohibition more leeway will inevitably expand into full legalization of recreational marijuana. This also points towards a political evolution of moving congress’ hand towards taking marijuana off the scheduling (aka most dangerous drugs) list…or at the very least lessen the schedule classification.

The LA Times reports that Republicans have aligned themselves with states rights backing their right to choose whether populations in those states want medical/legal marijuana. Not only does this indicate that Republicans do support medical marijuana legislation but that the federal government won’t infringe upon state’s rights with regard to medial marijuana laws.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves with all the good news of progress…this is still America. Ironically, this kitchen-sink bill also shuts down DC’s attempt at legalizing recreational marijuana despite reported 70% support for a ballot initiative just last month. Congress has this power since they act as DC’s state legislature. I hate to contribute to common narratives drawing partisan lines — Republicans against Democrats — but in this instance I’d like to point out that Republicans completely ignored voters voices. Completely. This about-face is lead by anti-marijuana crusader Republican Andy Harris of Maryland. Regardless of the woes of the American political system, medical marijuana (and marijuana in general) is quickly becoming favored among Republican voters who, in previous year, were the least likely group to support anything marijuana related.

It’s obvious change is a’coming. This is a step in the right direction for medical marijuana patients who want to have access to medicine, to own or visit dispensaries without the fear of federal retaliation or legal trouble. These patients want marijuana to be perceived as a legitimate medicine rather than demonized by political figures or fear mongered by the DEA’s scheduling. Patients also want their workplaces to adapt. The beginning of the end is here.

All 1,603 pages of H.R. 83 can be found HERE.

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