While many states in the U.S. have successfully passed bills “legalizing” marijuana for medical and even recreational use, cannabis is still illegal on a nation-wide, federal level. In fact, cannabis is still classified as a Schedule I drug with “no medicinal value,” along with heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. But recurring evidence is showing that this could all change very soon. Reportedly tucked deep inside the 1,603-page federal spending measure is a provision that effectively ends the federal government’s prohibition on medical marijuana.
The bill’s passage over the weekend marks the first time Congress has approved nationally significant legislation backed by legalization advocates. It brings almost to a close two decades of tension between the states and Washington over medical use of marijuana.
“This is a victory for so many,” said the measure’s coauthor, Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa. The measure’s approval, he said, represents “the first time in decades that the federal government has curtailed its oppressive prohibition of marijuana.”
Under the provision, states with legal medical marijuana would no longer need to worry about federal drug agents raiding retail operations. Agents would be prohibited from doing so.
“The war on medical marijuana is over. Now the fight moves on to legalization of all marijuana. This is the strongest signal we have received from Congress [that] the politics have really shifted. … Congress has been slow to catch up with the states and American people, but it is catching up,” said Bill Piper, a lobbyist with the Drug Policy Alliance, who called the move historic.
And evidence suggests that president Obama is all for it, as he has repeatedly said the federal government would use minimal resources to strike at dispensaries. The Obama Administration has unofficially made it part of their policy to neither indict nor raid medical marijuana dispensaries and growers.
“What you’re seeing now is Colorado, Washington through state referenda, they’re experimenting with legal marijuana,” the president said in response to a question from YouTube host Hank Green. “The position of my administration has been that we still have federal laws that classify marijuana as an illegal substance, but we’re not going to spend a lot of resources trying to turn back decisions that have been made at the state level on this issue. My suspicion is that you’re gonna see other states start looking at this.”
With 23 states legalizing medical marijuana, and Colorado and Washington legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes, there is no doubt that we’ll see even more states pass similar bills in 2015. The movement seems to have gained enough momentum to ride to the end.