Federal lawmakers gathered on Capitol Hill this week in a continued effort to prevent the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration from sabotaging statewide medical marijuana programs.
On Thursday, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved a rider designed to stop the Department of Justice from spending federal funds to shakedown any state or U.S. territory that has legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes.
The rider, which was introduced by Senator Barbara Mikulski, would accomplish this goal by simply prohibiting the department from using federal tax dollars “to prevent any [state] from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”
Although the rider is only a temporary solution to the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws, it would provide the necessary protection to stop the DEA from harassing and prosecuting businesses, patients and doctors involved in this sector of the cannabis industry.
Similar measures have been included in the federal budget for the past couple of years, but because these riders are not part of concrete federal policy, they must be renewed every year.
Marijuana advocates say that while these provisionary patches are not in any way a perfect fix, they do provide a legal shield that remains essential in keep the wolves of the drug war at bay.
“This measure won’t force the DEA to act compassionately, but it will limit its capacity to act callously,” Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, told HIGH TIMES in an emailed statement. “The DEA should not be using federal tax dollars to go after patients and care providers who are following state laws. It’s a huge waste of resources, and it often results in seriously ill patients and their caregivers being needlessly dragged into the criminal justice system.”
The amendment, which is now part of the Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill, must go before the full Senate for a vote. The word on the street is the rider will likely pass both Congressional chambers within the next month – a similar amendment was approved by the House and Senate in 2015 – putting the rider in a solid position to either be signed into law by President Obama or renewed for inclusion in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget.