Yesterday the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of amending the Commerce, Justice, State (CJS) Appropriations Bill to protect marijuana businesses in states where it has been legalized for medical and recreational use. This is a momentous victory and will prevent the Department of Justice from acting unilaterally to hinder cannabis commerce.
While this spending bill only last one year, it opens the door for more lasting legislative action. This decision is unprecedented and historically significant in that this is the first time a congressional chamber passed protections for adult-use sales as well as medical. Whether or not the Republican Senate will leave these provisions in place remains to be seen.
The House also passed two additional protections for tribal cannabis programs and Veterans Affairs physicians who recommend medical marijuana. The amendments were passed by a voice vote, but the main initiative was approved by a bipartisan 267-165 vote. The Director of National Affairs for Drug Policy Alliance, Michael Collins, remarked that, “the end of marijuana prohibition has never been closer.”
Collins went on to say, “Now is the time for Democrats to pivot to passing legislation that will end prohibition through a racial justice lens, making sure that the communities most impacted by our racist marijuana laws have a stake in the future of legalization. To do anything less would be to repeat an injustice.”
The amendment was sponsored by Democratic Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Republican Tom McClintock. Blumenauer was quick to point out that, “We have much more work to do. The federal government is out of touch and our cannabis laws are out of date. I’m pleased that the House agrees and we are able to move forward.”
Many cannabis reform advocates see this as a stepping stone to more permanent change and are lobbying to get the STATES Act passed. This would provide long-term protection for the cannabis industry in states that have legalized either medical or recreational marijuana.