Unlike what you may have been informed of, Congress did not tacitly remove the federal ban on medical cannabis. It did not lift the ban with a bang either. In fact, the federal ban was not lifted at all. Instead, here is what really happened.

In December 2014, Congress approved a spending proposal that incorporated a rider denying the Justice Department (which incorporates the Drug Enforcement Administration) from utilizing stores appropriated by that bill to keep states from executing their medical cannabis laws. The same rider, supported by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Sam Farr (D-Calif.), was incorporated into the spending piece approved by Congress a month ago. That implies it will stay in power for another financial year.

Both times, sundry news outlets hyperbolized the effect of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, swaying various medical cannabis activists to believe wrongly that Congress had legalized it. Evan Halper, a reporter at the Los Angeles Times, led the way in 2015 with an article titled “Congress Quietly Ends Federal Government’s Ban on Medical Marijuana.”

Halper stated that the rider “effectively ends the federal government’s prohibition on medical marijuana” as well as “brings almost to a close two decades of tension between the states and Washington over medical use of marijuana.” He adds that states that allow medical marijuana “no longer need to worry about federal drug agents raiding retail operations,” since “agents would be prohibited from doing so.” At best, it was an extremely optimistic approach. Halper was not the only one overselling the rider.

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