Senate Committee Approves DEA Cuts, But Will It Matter?

The pulse of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration continues to weaken at its core, at least with regard to medical marijuana, which has policy experts convinced that Uncle Sam is prepared to end the war on weed.

Just two weeks ago, a group of federal lawmakers marched up to Capitol Hill and introduced a series of amendments aimed at preventing the DEA from spending tax dollars to interfere with states that have legalized marijuana. Much to the surprise of everyone, the House of Representatives approved all but one of the proposed agency cuts—setting their clock to borrowed time.

This sentiment was resonated earlier this week by the Senate Appropriations Committee, which voted in favor of an amendment that would force the DEA to stop kicking down the doors of the medical marijuana community. The proposal, which mimics the conditions of the CARERS Act, would essentially stop the Justice Department from spending American tax dollars to send combative soldiers of the drug war into the 39 states that have legalized medicinal cannabis—even those that have passed CBD-only laws.

Although the House has supported these types of amendments for the past couple of years, this marks the first time in history that the Senate has raised a finger to defend the rights of state marijuana laws. It is this gesture that has caused many proponents of pot to make statements suggesting that the DEA’s anti-marijuana crusade is on the verge of life support.

“What we’re witnessing today are the death throes of the federal government’s war on medical marijuana,” Michael Collins, policy manger with the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs, said in a statement. “Last week the House sent a resounding message to the DEA and DOJ—stop the interference and let states legalize medical marijuana. Today, the Senate echoed that message.”

Unfortunately, there is, or at least there should be, a great deal of skepticism surrounding the effectiveness of this amendment. Similar attempts at preventing the Justice Department from interfering with medical marijuana states, specifically one that was attached to last year’s federal spending bill and signed by President Obama, have done nothing to prevent the wrath of the DEA.

In fact, countless news reports have surfaced over the course of the past six months suggesting that drug enforcement agents continue to raid dispensaries and pursue patients in medical marijuana states. The Justice Department, however, simply maintains that “it can still prosecute medical marijuana cases” because the amendment only stops them from “impeding the ability of states to carry out their medical marijuana laws.”

It remains to be seen whether the latest amendment, or any of the others for that matter, will better serve the cause if they are attached to the next federal budget.

The Marijuana Policy Project seems to believe that the Senate’s approval of this measure is “another resounding victory for medical marijuana,” and maybe it is, but this is the same optimism the group expressed last year with the passing of Rohrabacher and Farr’s amendment.

Last year, Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the group, said, “Federal tax dollars will no longer be wasted arresting seriously ill medical marijuana patients and those who provide to them.”

Unfortunately, his statement was far from accurate.

The reality is that all of the proposed amendments to the Fiscal Year 2016 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill, if passed, will likely become, what syndicated columnist Jacob Sullum refers to as “statements of congressional intent,” and prove relatively worthless until federal and state marijuana laws are paralleled.

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