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Congress rolled a major victory for medical marijuana in a spending bill

Congress rolled a major victory for medical marijuana in a spending bill


The 2015 spending bill contains a provision that says no federal funds may be used to prevent states from enforcing their own medical marijuana laws

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Inside the fiscal 2015 spending bill — yes, the one that's 1,603 pages long — is a measure that prevents the federal government from interfering with states that have allowed medical marijuana or allow the drug entirely. Federal agents are now prohibited from raiding marijuana retail operations.

Sound too good to be true? Here are the relevant sections:

Sec. 538. None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.

Sec. 539. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used in contravention of section 7606 (``Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research'') of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Public Law 113-79) by the Department of Justice or the Drug Enforcement Administration.

As you can see from the above — taken from the text of the bill H.R. 83 — it's not just medical marijuana users who can feel safer. The bill also protects hemp farmers; in Colorado last year, farmers harvested the very first hemp crop since the 1950s.

Pressure has been building for the federal government to change its marijuana policy; by now, 32 states and Washington, DC have legalized marijuana or its ingredients for treating illness. Colorado and Washington state have legalized the drug entirely; sales in Colorado began January 1, and sales in Washington followed in July. Last month, citizens in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, DC voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

Though the Drug Enforcement Administration still classes marijuana as a Schedule I drug — a dangerous drug with no medical benefits — states began allowing medical use of pot starting in the 1990s, an implicit rebuke to the DEA. Today, the majority of Americans favor legal weed; it's hard not to see the text in H.R. 83 as a belated acknowledgment of that fact.