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Rashmi Kalia, Daily Digest News
In a historic vote, the U.S. House blocked the federal government from implementing its marijuana laws in states that have approved use of the drug for medical purposes.
Reflecting growing national acceptance of cannabis, a bipartisan coalition of House members voted to restrict the Drug Enforcement Administration from using funds to go after medical marijuana operations that are legal under state laws.
The plan passed 219-189, with forty nine Republicans joining one hundred and seventy Democrats to approve the measure, shortly after midnight.
“This is a game changer that paves the way for much more policy change to come,” said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, a group that has lobbied to end federal penalties for marijuana use.
Tom Angell, chairman of the pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority, said the vote reflected the fact that members of Congress are hearing more stories about medical uses of marijuana, including by children who suffer from seizures.
While Congress’ official position is that marijuana is a drug with no medical value, twenty two states now allow medical marijuana. Minnesota was the latest to approve it when Democratic Governor Mark Dayton signed a bill into law this week. Five other states, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Utah, and Wisconsin, have legalized CBD oils, a non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that may treat epilepsy.
The vote follows changing public sentiment toward the government’s failed war on drugs. A majority of Americans support drug policies that focus on providing treatment, rather than an arrest and prosecution. Also, an overwhelming majority of Americans support the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes.
While marijuana advocates celebrated, the measure still faces an uncertain fate. No similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate.