Congress Uses Budget Bill to OK Marijuana

Jennifer Gladstone

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potleaf_flagsLeave it to the federal government to make a complex situation even more impossible. Marijuana laws now differ in almost every state. Some allow it for medicinal use; others have gone whole hog and made even recreational use ok.  These all fly in the face of the federal laws which still have pot classified as a banned drug according to the Controlled Substances Act.

As local law enforcement, healthcare professionals and employers in 32 states grapple with the details of the illegal drug that isn’t so illegal anymore, the U.S. Congress threw its hat into the ring. And as is their habit, they used thousands of budget pages to make everything even murkier than before.

Deep inside the budget bill that passed last December, Congress essentially threw up its metaphorical hands when it came to enforcement in states that have chosen to legalize medical marijuana.  Under the provision, DEA agents will not be allowed to raid marijuana retailers or patients who are acting legally under their state laws.  It forbids the use of any federal money or resources being used to obstruct state laws on medical marijuana.  This has pretty much been the recent policy of the Obama administration, but with the President’s signature on the budget it becomes law.

These changes only deal with medical marijuana, however.  Congress is still holding back when it comes to fully legalizing the drug, and used a rider in the budget bill to prevent legalization in the District of Columbia all together.  D.C. voters chose to allow people to possess up to 2 ounces of pot and grow up to three plants in their homes. City lawmakers were even considering ways to legally tax pot sales. The Congressional budget prohibits the city from spending any tax dollars on enacting these initiatives.

The fight over D.C. is not over yet.  City leaders say they are preparing for a showdown with Congress.  D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) says he plans to ignore the provision in the new budget and will instead submit the voter-approved referendum to the Congress for approval in January. Lawmakers will either have to veto it or let it stand… either way they will have to discuss it again.

The issue of state regulated marijuana use will continue to be a hazy subject until federal lawmakers attack the matter head on.  Piece meal legislation and budget restrictions just won’t do.

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Jennifer Gladstone

Posted By: Jennifer Gladstone

Jennifer Gladstone is a news anchor and journalist with more than 20 years of experience in front of the camera. She's worked in several markets, large and small, and has performed nearly every task needed in a newsroom. As EBI’s Screening News Editor, she keeps EBI’s customers and blog subscribers up to date on the latest screening news and legislative alerts affecting companies of all sizes.

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