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The Spending Bill Deals Blow to U.S War Against Marijuana

Jan 4, 2015 • 3:07 PM EST
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3 MIN READ  •  By Michael Berger
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On Tuesday, December 16, 2014, the Federal government dealt a historic blow to the United States’ decades-long war on drugs with the passage of the federal spending bill. The spending bill contains protections for medical marijuana and industrial hemp operations in states where they are legal.

The spending bill includes an amendment that prohibits the Department of Justice from using funds to go after state-legal medical cannabis programs. The bill will bring the federal government one step closer to ending raids on medical marijuana dispensaries, as well as stopping arrests of individuals involved with pot businesses that are complying with state law.

The bill protects medical marijuana programs in the 23 states that have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, as well as 11 additional states that have legalized CBD oils, a non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that has shown to be beneficial in some severe cases of epilepsy.

Specifically, an amendment sponsored by California Congressmen, Dana Rohrbacher and Sam Farr, to the $1.1 trillion spending bill states, “None of the funds made available in this act to the Department of Justice may be used … to prevent … states … from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

Following Congress’ passage of the legislation, Sam Farr said “The federal government will finally respect the decisions made by the majority of states that passed medical marijuana laws. This is great day for common sense because now our federal dollars will be spent more wisely on prosecuting criminals and not sick patients.”

Spending Bill Also Protects Hemp Industry

The bill also provided industrial hemp new protections from DEA intervention. Industrial hemp is from the same plant species as marijuana. Hemp contains little to no THC, which is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that gives users the “high” sensation. The farm bill, which President Barack Obama signed into law in February 2014, legalized industrial hemp production in states that permit it.

Eighteen states have legalized industrial hemp production, and more than a dozen other states have introduced some type of legislation pertaining to hemp.

In May 2014, the DEA made headlines when it seized hemp seeds intended to be used in Kentucky’s legal hemp research pilot program. A month later, the hemp seeds were released, and the state began to research the crop.

Saves More Than $200,000 Per Day

Under the Obama administration, the DEA and several U.S. attorneys have raided marijuana dispensaries and sent people to prison, even though they complied with state laws. According to a report released last year by advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, the Obama administration has spent nearly $80 million each year cracking down on medical marijuana, which amounts to more than $200,000 per day.

Not a Complete Victory

The spending bill was a great win for marijuana advocates, but it was not perfect. The bill included a provision which blocked the legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington, D.C., which nearly 70 percent of voters approved. However, several members of Congress have stated that it remains unclear whether the enacted language is written in a manner that can block its legalization. The District of Columbia Council Chairman, Phil Mendelson, said that he plans to ignore the provision and will send a bill implementing Initiative 71 to Congress in January for a 30-day review, during which federal lawmakers can veto it or let it stand. Such a review is necessary before any DC initiative can become law.

Washington DC’s Initiative 71 removes criminal and civil penalties regarding the adult possession of up to two ounces of cannabis and/or the cultivation of up to six plants.

 

http://blog.norml.org/2014/12/16/president-to-sign-federal-spending-bill-protecting-state-sanctioned-medical-marijuana-programs/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/14/congress-medical-marijuana_n_6317866.html

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Authored By

Michael Berger

Michael Berger is Managing Partner of StoneBridge Partners, LLC and Founder of Technical420.com. Prior to entering the cannabis industry, Michael was an Equity Research Analyst at Raymond James Financial covering the Energy Sector. Michael has been featured in publications such as The Street, Bloomberg, US Money News, and hosts various cannabis events across North America.

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