A measure that would keep federal enforcement efforts from interfering in state medical marijuana laws recently passed the U.S. House of Representatives. It was a surprising passage, particularly because of the GOP majority. Now, it goes before the Democrat-controlled Senate before heading to the President’s desk. If passed, the law would allow state officials and patients to breathe a little easier about their medical marijuana programs.
Currently, medical marijuana laws across the U.S. are all over the place, with more than 20 states having some form of medical pot system. But because the federal government considers marijuana a Schedule I substance, they’ve maintained some enforcement role and have loomed over state programs, intimidating some officials into extremely strict regulations or postponement of their programs altogether.
The House-passed bill is part of a larger criminal justice funding package and would, “prohibit the use of funds to prevent certain states from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana,” according to Reuters.
This quite simply means the federal government would respect the state policies in regards to medical marijuana.
“Federal tax dollars will no longer be wasted arresting seriously ill medical marijuana patients and those who provide to them,” said Dan Riffle of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “This is a historic vote, and it’s yet another sign that our federal government is shifting toward a more sensible marijuana policy.”
Considering the latest polls show more than 51 percent of Americans support all-out legalization, and ~75% percent support legalization of medical marijuana, the passage of this law would be in alignment with what the American people want.
Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance says he is “cautiously optimistic” about the bill being passed by the Senate. “The Senate is always unpredictable but we have reason to be optimistic.”
If it does pass the Senate and goes before the President, his signature isn’t guaranteed. Though Obama has said he realizes pot is safer than alcohol and he’s told the DOJ to back-off Colorado and Washington marijuana policies, there’s always a chance the DEA’s chief Michele Leonhart could put a bug in his ear. Leonhart is a staunch opponent of all things marijuana and the two have butt heads in the past.