Last week, the United States congress passed a spending bill to fund the Federal government until next September. This legislation had many provisions that were placed in the bill in the final stages of negotiations, several of which were highly controversial and caused a vocal uproar from politicians on both sides of the aisle. But, despite the flawed and compromised nature of this spending bill, there were a few provisions that will make any supporter of cannabis legalization very happy.
Congressman Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA), and Sam Farr(D-CA) introduced an amendment to the Federal Spending bill that would block the Department of Justice from using the funds in the spending bill to prosecute patients or businesses operating under state medical marijuana programs. The passage of this amendment is a milestone achievement for the national decriminalization, because for the first time, lawmakers at the federal level took steps to limit the federal government’s ability to prosecute state-legal marijuana businesses. Although the language of this amendment leaves room for interpretation, the overall legislative intent could not be more clear. With this amendment it will be much more difficult for the Department of Justice and the DEA to continue its persecution and harassment of lawful cannabusinesses, particularly in the state of California, where raids and seizures of property continue to this day.
Despite the historic nature of this amendment and the positive implications it has for everyone involved in the legal cannabis industry, this law is not the silver bullet we’ve been waiting for. The provisions in this amendment are attached to a spending bill, which means that it will expire next September and will need to be renewed. Furthermore, the language is not conclusive, and some agencies may continue to interfere with state cannabis businesses claiming that their actions are not “undermining” the state’s cannabis program. Regardless of the laws shortcomings, it is still a major step forward in the ongoing decriminalization and reform movement sweeping this country, and the first major step by federal lawmakers to roll back Federal prohibition on medical marijuana programs.