Congress Approves Spending Bill Protecting Medical Marijuana States from Federal Interference
Legislation renews spending restrictions that prevent federal law enforcement from targeting medical marijuana patients and businesses in compliance with state law
WASHINGTON — A spending bill passed by Congress early Friday contains language that renews restrictions on the use of federal funds to interfere with state medical marijuana programs. If approved by the president, the legislation will continue to prevent the Department of Justice from spending resources to target medical marijuana patients and providers who are in compliance with state law. These protections are set to expire on September 30and would need to be renewed in the FY2019 spending bill. This language was originally approved in 2014 and has been included in every subsequent budget agreement.
On January 4, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded a Department of Justice policy instituted in 2013 that directed federal prosecutors not to enforce federal marijuana laws against individuals and businesses that are in compliance with state medical or adult-use marijuana laws. This move created uncertainty in states where marijuana is legal for adults, but passage of the spending bill ensures that medical marijuana programs will still be protected for the remainder of the fiscal year.
“Patients across the country will be relieved to hear that Congress has maintained the current policy of allowing states to make their own decisions on medical marijuana policy,” said Matthew Schweich, executive director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “A strong majority of American voters oppose federal interference in state-level marijuana laws. Any actions by the federal government against medical marijuana patients or their providers would represent a dangerous and unjust backwards step on public health. Lawmakers are increasingly recognizing the benefits of medical marijuana, as well as the role it can play in our efforts to combat a nationwide opioid crisis that tragically claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Americans last year.”
Recent studies suggest that marijuana may be used to treat opiate addiction as well as many of the conditions for which opiates are commonly prescribed. Several states where marijuana is legal for medical purposes have shown links between reforming their marijuana laws and positive opiate-related public health outcomes.
“It is imperative that Congress continue to include these temporary protections in the federal budget until comprehensive marijuana policy reforms are passed,” Schweich continued.
Twenty-nine states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted effective medical marijuana laws. Marijuana is legal and regulated for adults in eight states, and adult possession and limited home cultivation are legal in Vermont and the District of Columbia.
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