On Saturday, the United States Congress approved a landmark $1.1 trillion spending bill in a 56-40 bipartisan vote. The bill, which was created to avoid another government shutdown, and to allocate funds for the next year, grants a new form of security to medical marijuana in states where it is legal.
The Huffington Post reported that the spending bill “includes an amendment that prohibits the Department of Justice from using funds to go after state-legal medical cannabis programs.”
The spokesman for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Erik Altieri, told VICE News that he was “very encouraged to see Congress begin to take some legit steps to resolving the state and federal conflict with marijuana law.”
“There are issues that still need to be resolved with banking and taxation, but this at least shows they can come together in a bipartisan way and stop raiding state-approved medical marijuana,” Altieri said.
Mike Liszewski, the Government Affairs Director from Americans for Safe Access, an organization working to ensure safe and legal access to medical marijuana, released a statement saying that by passing this bill, Congress is acting in favor of the majority of Americans.
“We applaud this Congress for doing the right thing by protecting the rights of patients, and ending a years-long attack on the medical marijuana community,” said Liszewski. “By approving this measure, Congress is siding with the vast majority of Americans who are calling for a change in how we enforce our federal marijuana laws.”
Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from California, sponsored the amendment, which first passed in the House in May. It prohibits “funding for DOJ to prevent states from implementing state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”
The Executive Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Neill Franklin, released a statement saying that this legislation was great for both patients and public safety.
“Congress has finally listened to the vast majority of Americans who believe the federal government has no right to interfere in the personal decision to use medical marijuana made by a patient in consultation with his or her doctor,” Franklin said.
VICE News reported that while the measure will not go into effect until the end of the present fiscal year, which is on September 30, 2015, medical marijuana advocates are currently working to “formalize the policy with standalone legislation,” such as a bill titled the “States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act,” which would “remove marijuana from the list of Schedule I controlled substances, and allow funding for therapeutic research.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 23 states and Washington D.C. have legalized the use of medical marijuana. The states include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
In a recent episode of Truth in Media, Investigative Journalist Ben Swann looked into the government’s involvement in the field of medical marijuana, and discovered that while the U.S. government claims that cannabis is not medicine, it currently holds the patent to cannabis as medicine. Watch the episode below: