Congress moves to end war on medical marijuana

David Downs, San Francisco Chronicle

In a potential “stunning victory” for medical marijuana advocates, the U.S. Congress is ready to-defund the federal war on medical marijuana.

Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have included riders in a large, “omnibus” spending bill that prohibit the Department of Justice from using federal funds to interfere with state-legal medical marijuana operations, reports indicate. The riders would also protecting hemp cultivation for academic and research purposes. If passed, it could stymie Drug Enforcement Administration efforts to threaten lawful cannabis providers in 23 states and DC, reducing the biggest threat: asset forfeiture laws allowing police to seize assets without charging anyone with a crime.

Congress is set to vote on the bill later this week.

The vast majority of Americans (78 percent) support states’ right to allow access to medical cannabis.

“For the first time, Congress is letting states set their own medical marijuana and hemp policies, a huge step forward for sensible drug policy,” said Bill Piper, director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s office of national affairs. “States will continue to reform their marijuana laws and Congress will be forced to accommodate them. It’s not a question of if, but when, federal marijuana prohibition will be repealed.”

“This is a great day for patients and for public safety,” stated Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, in a release. “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 and if this amendment passes, they no longer will.”

The medical marijuana provision first passed the House in May, as a bipartisan amendment sponsored by Dana Rohrabacher (R, CA).

“This is great news for medical marijuana patients all across the country,” stated Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), one of the co-authors of the House measure, in a press release. “This amendment protects patients while the federal government catches up with the views of the American people. Patients will have access to the care legal in their state without fear of federal prosecution. And our federal dollars will be spent more wisely on fighting actual crimes and not wasted going after patients.”

“We applaud this Congress for doing the right thing by protecting the rights of patients, and ending a years-long attack on the medical marijuana community,” stated Mike Liszewski, Government Affairs Director with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the leading medical marijuana advocacy organization that has been championing the measure for years. “By approving this measure, Congress is siding with the vast majority of Americans who are calling for a change in how we enforce our federal marijuana laws.”