For the second year in a row it looks like America’s collective budget will include protections for states that have legalized medical marijuana.
The end-of-year omnibus budget package being weighed in Congress has been graced by two riders: One, which we told you about previously, would continue to deny the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration cash for crackdowns in medical marijuana states.
The other denies DEA funding for interfering with state industrial hemp research programs.
It’s not a done deal yet, but if last year is any indication, it doesn’t seem like Congress will have the time or the appetite to carve out these riders while it’s debating much bigger issues.
On the negative side, the package doesn’t include long-sought, pro-marijuana provisions: Allowing doctors who work for Veterans Affairs to recommend medical cannabis; preventing the V.A. from denying services to legit medical marijuana patients; preventing feds from punishing banks for doing business with legit weed businesses; and allowing Washington, D.C. to legalize and tax pot.
“While marijuana was once treated like a dangerous third-rail by most elected officials, the inclusion of these provisions demonstrates how it has now become a mainstream issue at the forefront of American politics and policy-making,” said Tom Angell, chairman of the group Marijuana Majority. “Polls show that a growing majority of voters support ending prohibition, and lawmakers can’t help but listen.”
“This is the second year in a row that Congress is using the appropriations process to tell federal agents and prosecutors not to interfere with state medical marijuana laws,” he continued. “But so far the Department of Justice has taken the absurd position that these spending provisions don’t actually prevent them from going after patients and providers who operate legally under state policies. The intent of Congress is clear, and so is the will of the American people. Since the Justice Department is being so stubborn, the next step should be for lawmakers to pass permanent standalone legislation that goes beyond these temporary spending riders. Then the DEA will have a much harder time undermining Congress and voters.”