What a wild day yesterday. As I was sitting in my cubicle reading tweets earlier in the day, it seemed that Washington D.C.'s marijuana legalization bill was going to be entirely scrapped in a backdoor deal between Democrats and Republicans. As the day progressed, it appeared that possession and cultivation of marijuana in D.C. would move forward, but that Congress wouldn't approve marijuana sales. Ultimately, the language that was agreed upon in the spending bill that will determine D.C.'s legalization implementation was somewhat vague. Some belief there's wiggle room to implement legalization in some fashion, others don't. There will no doubt be a battle over implementation, as there was with medical marijuana in D.C., so activists need to keep the pressure on as much as possible.
Something that was included in the spending bill's language was a ban on using funds for federal medical marijuana raids and hemp enforcement. Those provisions brought praise from Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority, who sent me the following message:
"Congressional leaders seem to have finally gotten the message that a supermajority of Americans wants states to be able to implement sensible marijuana reforms without federal interference. This legislation greatly reduces the chances that costly and senseless DEA raids will come between seriously ill patients and the doctor-recommended medicine they need for relief. Now that Congress has created political space by taking this important legislative step, there are no remaining excuses for the Obama administration not to exercise its executive power to reschedule marijuana immediately. The attorney general can begin that process today with the stroke of a pen."
Below is the actual language regarding hemp and medical marijuana from the spending bill, also provided by the Marijuana Majority:
"Sec. 538. None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana."
"Sec. 539. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used in contravention of section 7606 ("Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research") of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Public Law 113-79) by the Department of Justice or the Drug Enforcement Administration."
"Section 538 prohibits the Department of Justice from preventing certain States from implementing State laws regarding the use of medical marijuana."
"Section 539 prohibits the use of funds by the Department of Justice or the Drug Enforcement Administration in contravention of a certain section of the Agricultural Act of 2014."
Yesterday was a bitter sweet day. Medical marijuana aids were de-funded, but Washington D.C.'s marijuana legalization is in limbo. Please contact your members of Congress and tell them to respect the will of D.C. voters. Tell them that vague language is far from good enough - we need full assurances that D.C. residents will be allowed to possess, cultivate, and gift marijuana as Initiative 71 outlined. Or even better - approve taxing and sales of marijuana.