A budget bill agreed upon by appropriations leaders in both the U.S. House and Senate could hamstring the ability of federal law enforcers to conduct raids in states where marijuana has some level of legality.
The provision that essentially denies funding for anti-marijuana efforts on the part of the U.S. Department of Justice first passed the House in May based on a 219-189 vote.
It has survived and will now be a part of the nation’s omnibus spending bill that, if passed by both full houses of Congress, would head to President Obama’s desk.
The bill’s language says:
Section 538 prohibits the Department of Justice from preventing certain States from implementing State laws regarding the use 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.
Pro-cannabis groups, of course, were elated. Tom Angell, founder of Marijuana Majority, says:
Congressional leaders seem to have finally gotten the message that a supermajority of Americans wants states to be able to implement sensible marijuana reforms without federal interference. This legislation greatly reduces the chances that costly and senseless DEA raids will come between seriously ill patients and the doctor-recommended medicine they need for relief. Now that Congress has created political space by taking this important legislative step, there are no remaining excuses for the Obama administration not to exercise its executive power to reschedule marijuana immediately. The attorney general can begin that process today with the stroke of a pen.
Mike Liszewski, Government Affairs Director with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), says:
We applaud this Congress for doing the right thing by protecting the rights of patients, and ending a years-long attack on the medical marijuana community. By approving this measure, Congress is siding with the vast majority of Americans who are calling for a change in how we enforce our federal marijuana laws.