The United States Senate Appropriations Committee approved legislation which prevents the federal government from blocking state laws pertaining to legal medical marijuana. Last week, the House of Representatives approved similar legislation, but rejected an amendment to prevent the Justice Department from interfering with states that have legal recreational marijuana programs.
The Senate’s amendment prohibits the Justice Department, including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), from using funds to interfere in the implementation of state laws that allow the cultivation, distribution, and use of marijuana for medical purposes.
Pro-marijuana legislation becoming a common them in D.C.
This is the second time in as many months that the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a marijuana policy reform measure.
In May, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Veterans Equal Access Amendment, which will allow Veterans Administration (VA) doctors to recommend medical marijuana to their patients in states where it is legal. The amendment had significant bipartisan support and was sponsored by Republican Senator Steve Daines (Montana) and Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley (Oregon).
Currently, 27 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, decriminalized marijuana, or both. Also, 4 states have legalized recreational marijuana and 14 states have legalized a limited form of marijuana by allowing patients access to cannabidiol (CBD).
Positive guidance has been issued by both the Treasury and Justice Department
In August 2013, the Justice Department issued guidance to governors of states where medical or recreational marijuana is legal. The Justice Department said it will not challenge the state’s marijuana laws if the state has a tightly regulated marijuana program.
In February 2014, the Treasury Department issued guidance to banks and financial institutions on how to work with marijuana businesses. Although the department stated that financial institutions can offer services to businesses that dispense marijuana, most banks are reluctant to do so because of the fear of prosecution.
In March, three Senators introduced the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act which is a bipartisan bill that would effectively end the federal ban on medical marijuana and implement a series of reforms.
The CARERS Act was introduced by Rand Paul, Cory Booker, and Kirsten Gillibrand and it has received increased support from other Senators such as Barbara Boxer since its submission. We hope the Senate approves the legislation passed yesterday by the House of Representatives and helps move the cannabis industry forward.