The House of Representatives has voted to block the Department of Justice (DOJ) from using its funds to enforce federal cannabis laws within states which have passed their own laws regulating recreational or medical marijuana cultivation, consumption and sales.
This measure was one of the several amendments put before the floor for inclusion in the appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2020. The measure, which expands an existing rider that protected medical marijuana programs, was approved on Thursday by a 267-165 vote.
Marijuana industry advocates are convinced that the vote tally reflects the broad support for marijuana law reform, and this support can be used to effect further reforms of the federal marijuana laws.
A day earlier (June 19), the House had also passed another measure seeking to protect the marijuana laws of Indian tribes. This particular measure was passed through a voice vote without any lawmaker asking for a roll call vote. The rider now makes it to the appropriations bill as well.
Rep. McClintock, one of the sponsors of the measure which was approved on Thursday, wrote a letter to members of the House on the day of the vote reminding them that what was at stake was a question on whether the federal government had any authority to dictate on matters of policy regarding an issue which happens within the borders of a state. In his view, which other members appear to have agreed with from the way they voted, the federal government didn’t have that constitutional authority.
Marijuana Policy Project, Drug Policy Alliance, Cannabis Trade Federation, and other marijuana advocacy groups hailed the decision of Congress as historical and a sign that lawmakers in the House of Representatives are waking up to the fact that marijuana law reform “isn’t just good policy but has also become good politics.”
It has emerged that the makers of the only CBD-derived drug to be approved by the FDA wrote to congressional staff telling them that the spending rider before the House should be defeated since it “could interfere with the DOJ’s ability to carry out its regulatory mandate.” The letter from Greenwich Biosciences was seen as being in bad taste since the “Big Pharma” company wanted to protect its interests at the expense of the interests of the people in states with marijuana-friendly laws.
The measures now head to the Appropriations Committee of Senate for consideration, and it isn’t yet clear whether they will be favorably received there. In the past, this committee has consistently approved the spending rider stopping DOJ from interfering in state-level medical marijuana programs. Now that the new amendments include protections for recreational marijuana, the industry isn’t sure how the Republicans in the Senate Committee will react.
Industry analysts are wondering what players like Youngevity International Inc. (NASDAQ: YGYI) and Cannabis Strategic Ventures Inc. (OTCQB: NUGS) would say to the senators if they had a chance to talk to them before they vote on the amendments.
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