Victory: Congress ends war on medical marijuana

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Dispatches from the Highlands

Marijuana news from contributing authors and staff writers on the latest in marijuana and medical marijuana

December 4, 2016
Denver, CO

In a landmark moment for cannabis law reform, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a measure late Thursday night to de-fund the federal war on medical marijuana. If passed by the Senate and signed by President Obama, the provision would bring a halt to the three-year-long medi-pot crackdown in California and other states.

The Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment to the $1.1 trillion cromnibus spending bill blocks the use of Department of Justice funds to “prevent [medical marijuana states] from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

The vast majority of Americans (78 percent) support states’ right to allow access to medical cannabis.

The crominbus is expected to pass the Senate and be signed by the President. The spending bill also contains a provision aimed at Washington DC legalization. The rider inserted by Republican Maryland Rep. Harris would prevent federal funds from being used to “enact or carry out any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.) or any tetrahydrocannabinols derivative.”

District activists say they will litigate the Harris rider.

Marijuana law reform advocates cheered the return of the Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment earlier this week, calling it a “stunning victory.”

“For the first time, Congress is letting states set their own medical marijuana and hemp policies, a huge step forward for sensible drug policy,” said Bill Piper, director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s office of national affairs. “States will continue to reform their marijuana laws and Congress will be forced to accommodate them. It’s not a question of if, but when, federal marijuana prohibition will be repealed.”

“This is a great day for patients and for public safety,” stated Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, in a release. “Congress has finally listened to the vast majority of Americans who believe the federal government has no right to interfere in the personal decision to use medical marijuana made by a patient in consultation with his or her doctor. Law enforcement never should have been a part of that decision and if this amendment passes, they no longer will.”

The medical marijuana provision first passed the House in May, as a bipartisan amendment sponsored by Dana Rohrabacher (R, CA). Federal funds have been used to shut down scores of licensed, regulated dispensaries across the country, as well as prosecute and imprison providers. The federal government under the Obama Administration has spent about $300 million on enforcement in medical marijuana states, Americans for Safe Access reports.

“This is great news for medical marijuana patients all across the country,” stated Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), one of the co-authors of the House measure, in a press release. “This amendment protects patients while the federal government catches up with the views of the American people. Patients will have access to the care legal in their state without fear of federal prosecution. And our federal dollars will be spent more wisely on fighting actual crimes and not wasted going after patients.”

“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,” stated Mike Liszewski, Government Affairs Director with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the leading medical marijuana advocacy organization that has been championing the measure for years. “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.”

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