U.S. House of Representatives Considers More Marijuana Reform

In June, the U.S. House of Representatives continued to inch the needle of marijuana forward in the United States. In a three-out-of-four victory for reformers, the House has voted to protect state marijuana and hemp laws from federal interference, cut the DEA budget and halt bulk collection of American communications in drug investigations.

The reforms were offered in the form of eight amendments to a large, multi-agency appropriations bill and were intended to continually restrict the federal enforcement of marijuana laws in states where marijuana and hemp are legal for any purpose per state law.

One narrowly defeated measure in this string of victories was a vote that would have prevented federal prosecutors and DEA agents from interfering with or blocking implementation of state recreational laws. Its intent was to stop federal prosecutors and the DEA from a repeat of what happened in Washington State. One hapless family – the Harveys – who became the posterchild of reform on Capitol Hill last year, faced federal mandatory sentencing for medical use, even though busted literally three months before voters legalized recreational use state-wide.

Regardless of this one small legislative setback, advocates were again quick to chalk up the raft of victories so far as another historic summer win on Capitol Hill for marijuana reform.

That said, it also painfully clear how far legalization has yet to go on a final if not federal level. Not only is marijuana still a criminal offense in some states, but just under half have legalized medical use (24 plus DC), federal research dollars are still largely banned from research, and in some states, “legalization” is actually still a technicality, particularly if patients have no place to obtain the drug legally.

That said, real federal forward progress is not likely to occur now before the end of President Obama’s term. His new Attorney General – Loretta Lynch, is on record including during her Congressional testimony during nomination – against the rescheduling of marijuana. The new temporary head of the DEA is also likely to stay in the shadows on the issue after the departure of the contentious and anti – reform Michelle Leonhart at the beginning of June.

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