The US House of Representatives voted to approve an amendment that will prohibit the Department of Justice from interfering with state and tribal cannabis programs. But, will the bill hold up in the Senate?
The verdict is in! The House of Representatives voted on Thursday in favor of a bill amendment that will prevent the feds from interfering with state-approved cannabis programs. The amendment to the spending package FY2021 passed by a margin of 254-163, with 31 Republicans casting ballots in favor of the change.
The proposal was sponsored by a bipartisan committee consisting of Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Tom McClintock (R-CA), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).
Addressing the House just before the floor vote, Blumenauer made reference to the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, which would federally legalize weed and is reportedly expected to be voted on in September.
“We have passed out of committee the MORE Act out of the Judiciary Committee, which would fully legalize cannabis, and make no mistake, that day is coming,” Blumenauer said. “In the meantime, until that day of reckoning comes, we must pass this amendment to ensure the federal government doesn't deal with —does not interfere with—state cannabis activities.”
Language in the just-passed amendment clearly states, “None of the funds made available by this Act to the Department of Justice may be used… to prevent any [states, territories, or tribes] from implementing their own laws that author e the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana.”
The new legislation, which shares similarities with the famous Rohrabacher-Farr amendment (and eventually became the Blumenauer-Farr amendment), will enable legal cannabis businesses to operate without fear of federal raids—a menacing prospect that has remained possible since federal law still (ridiculously) classifies marijuana as an illegal, Schedule I drug.
While the new amendment won’t change any federal laws, some cannabis industry figures say it will allow those in their field to at least breathe a little easier. “I think that all cannabis businesses have some level of fear that the DOJ could someday come in and ruin their livelihood,” said Stuart Titus, the CEO of Medical Marijuana, Inc, “and this kind of legislation could prevent that.”
Industry analysts have stated that full federal legalization may happen fast if Democrats win the White House and Senate this coming November.
Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, meanwhile, remains in favor of decriminalization and other lower-level reforms over sweeping legalization. This week, though, Biden also said he would use federal funds and services to help states working to expunge marijuana-related criminal records.
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