Congress is positioned to “extend a year-old cease-fire” in the federal government’s war on drugs; more specifically, the war on medical marijuana. This has sent a very strong message to prosecutors, warning them to stay out of the legal marijuana industry. Activists in Washington, DC state that lawmakers have added a renewal of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment that was established in December of 2014 in the spending bill, which was recently revealed. The spending rider is still prohibiting the Department of Justice from using federal funds to intervene with any state medical marijuana laws. According to its authors, employees from the Department of Justice are not allowed to investigate, arrest, or prosecute anyone under the parameters of cannabis laws in over 35 states.

“The renewal of the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment suggests most members of Congress are ready to end the federal government’s war on medical marijuana,” Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, said. “There’s a growing sentiment that the Justice Department should not be using taxpayer dollars to arrest and prosecute people who are following their states’ medical marijuana laws.”

Tom Angell, Marijuana Majority chair, added: “While marijuana was once treated like a dangerous third-rail by most elected officials, the inclusion of these provisions demonstrates how it has now become a mainstream issue at the forefront of American politics and policymaking. Polls show that a growing majority of voters support ending prohibition, and lawmakers can’t help but listen.”

In April, officials from the Department of Justice informed the media that they thought Rohrabacher-Farr was inefficient and merely prevented them from threatening state officials with prosecutions for medical marijuana regulations. However, a federal judge ruled in October that Rohrabacher-Farr has a different meaning, to “leave state-legal medical marijuana activity alone.”

“This amendment has teeth, but only as long as it keeps getting renewed,” said Capecchi.

“This is the second year in a row that Congress is using the appropriations process to tell federal agents and prosecutors not to interfere with state medical marijuana laws. But so far the Department of Justice has taken the absurd position that these spending provisions don’t actually prevent them from going after patients and providers who operate legally under state policies,” Angell said. “The intent of Congress is clear, and so is the will of the American people. Since the Justice Department is being so stubborn, the next step should be for lawmakers to pass permanent standalone legislation that goes beyond these temporary spending riders. Then the DEA will have a much harder time undermining Congress and voters.”

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