The $1.1 trillion spending bill passed recently by Congress sent the pro-medical marijuana movement a step forward by included several drug reform provisions.

The bill includes language that blocks the Justice Department (JD) and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) from dedicating resources to interfere with state medical marijuana laws or hemp research projects. [1]

The language originally came from an amendment written by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), which was passed last year, but had to be renewed this year. The amendment was sponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).

Proponents of medical marijuana praised the amendment.

“The renewal of this amendment should bring relief for medical marijuana patients and business owners,” said Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “For decades Congress has been responsible for passing disastrous drug laws. It’s encouraging to see them starting to roll back the war on drugs by allowing states to set their own medical marijuana policies.” 

“Patients who benefit from medical marijuana should not be treated like dangerous criminals, and the businesses that support them need to be protected from the old drug war mentality that still runs deep within the DEA,” said Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of criminal justice professionals seeking an end to the war on drugs. “It’s very encouraging to see such widespread support for protecting state’s rights and the rights of patients.” [2]

While the provision is encouraging, it falls short of full legalization that would remove marijuana from the list of Schedule I controlled substances. Under the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is classified as a more dangerous drug than cocaine. [2]

If pot was removed from the list, people who have lost lifetime access to student loans, grants, and other federal assistance would have their rights restored. Individuals convicted on marijuana charges would be released from jail or prison, pardoned, and their criminal records would be expunged, as long as those were the only charges against them.

Additionally, Congress did not approve amendments allowing banks to provide financial services to marijuana businesses or permit veterans to have access to medical marijuana, even though the Senate approved both.

Also, Congress included provisions in the spending bill that block Washington, D.C., from taxing or regulating cannabis.

Sources:

[1] Daily Kos

[2] Alternet


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About Julie Fidler:
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Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.