As July drew to a close, the House of Representatives voted in favor of an amendment that would protect all state, territory and tribal marijuana programs from federal interference. Sponsored by Reps. Earl Blumenauer, Tom McClintock, Eleanor Holmes Norton and Barbara Lee, the measure would prevent the Department of Justice from using its funds to impede the implementation of cannabis legalization laws. It was passed in a 254-163 vote on the floor and it builds on an existing, more limited provision to shield only state medical cannabis laws from federal interference.
As more and more states have legalized either medical or recreational cannabis over the years, attitudes have slowly shifted in favor of cannabis, says Blumenauer. “The federal government, sadly, is still trapped by the dead hand of Richard Nixon’s war on drugs, declaring cannabis a schedule 1 controlled substance.” Blumenauer also discussed separate House-passed legislation that would protect banks that service the marijuana industry, finally granting it access to banking services as well as another standalone bill to federally deschedule cannabis.
“Make no mistake, that day is coming. In the meantime, until that day of reckoning comes, we must pass this amendment to ensure the federal government does not interfere with state cannabis activities. This modest extension of existing protections, which we have achieved through the appropriations process in the past, is critically important,” he says.
Rep. Robert Aderholt, who spoke in opposition to the amendment, argued that passing the measure would send “the false message to youth that smoking marijuana is healthy” despite cannabis’ purported medical benefits having not been proven. “Claims of benefits from smoked or ingested marijuana are very unreliable and generally outright fabrication. However, it is an established fact that marijuana use has real health and social harms,” he says.
In response, Blumenauer stated that marijuana has been effectively used to treat conditions such as epilepsy in children, PTSD in veterans and nausea for people undergoing chemotherapy. “The existing policy of prohibition is an abject failure,” he said, highlighting the damage the decades’ long war on drugs has done to the African American community. “This selective enforcement of nonsensical policy has posed huge problems for black Americans.”
“For far too long, our federal cannabis policies have been rooted in our discriminatory past and have continued inflicting harm on communities of color,” says co-sponsor Lee. “As the public’s views towards cannabis have evolved, Congress has a responsibility to ensure that our policies follow suit and move toward restorative justice.”
The passing of this amendment is likely to be welcomed by marijuana companies like Pure Extracts Corp. who may see it as another chip off the wall of prohibition.
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