Congress Ends Federal Ban on Medical Marijuana

Laurel Joss, Autism Daily Newscast

The United States Congress quietly ended the ban on medical marijuana in a provision tucked away in the 1,603-page spending bill. The Rohrabacher-Farr medical marijuana amendment prohibits the justice department from spending federal money to undermine state medical marijuana laws. The provision effectively prohibits federal agents from raiding medical marijuana businesses in states where the drug is legal for medical purposes. This is the first time in history Congress have ever cut off funding to marijuana enforcement.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R- Costa Mesa), co-author of the provision, said,

“This is a victory for so many. . . (the measure’s approval represents) the first time in decades that the federal government has curtailed its oppressive prohibition of marijuana.”

This amendment was originally introduced by Congressman Maurice Hinchey in 2003, when it received 152 yes votes, out of the 218 necessary to win. Similar amendments have been introduced in Congress every year between 2003-2007, and again in 2012, without success. For thirteen years advocates have been fighting an uphill battle, but now 23 states have legalized medical marijuana, and recent polls show public support for medical marijuana is approximately 78%.

Autism Daily Newscast has been following the medical marijuana story, reporting on families treating seizures and aggressive behaviors with cannabis-based medications to updates on state and federal policies. Families have gone to great lengths, from moving across the country to risking jail in order to obtain the marijuana-based medications that have been able to help their children when nothing else was working.

Several organizations, including the Drug Policy Alliance, Marijuana Policy Project, Americans for Safe Access, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, NORML and LEAP, applaud the amendment, and are calling for action. In an article for the Huffington Post, the Director of National Affairs of the Drug Policy Alliance, Bill Piper, wrote,

“There is still a lot more work ahead. This spending amendment is a good first step, but ultimately federal law need to change to allow states to set their own marijuana policy without federal interference.”

Major Neil Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), said in a statement on the LEAP website, “This is a great day for patients and for public safety. 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.”

What does this mean for families fighting to gain access to medical marijuana for their children and loved ones?

It means they will not face federal prosecution for giving marijuana-based medication to their children, as long as they live in one of the 23 states where medical marijuana is legal. It means that they no longer have to worry about legal repercussions, including possibly losing custody of their children, for seeking treatments that may be more effective than traditional pharmaceutical means. It remains to be seen whether medical marijuana will be legalized in all 50 states, but for now, many families are relieved.