It has been a historic week in Congress for legal hemp cultivation and medical marijuana programs.
The most recent federal spending bill was released on Tuesday and included are amendments that would stop the DEA from using funds to impede with state-legal industrial hemp research. The amendments would also stop the Department of Justice from using funds to go after state medical marijuana programs.
“The enactment of this legislation will mark the first time in decades that the federal government has curtailed its oppressive prohibition of marijuana and has instead taken an approach to respect the many states that have permitted the use of medical marijuana to some degree,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who in May introduced the medical marijuana protections amendment with co-sponsor Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.).
“This is a victory for so many, including scores of our wounded veterans, who have found marijuana to be an important medicine for some of the ailments they suffer, such as PTSD, epilepsy and MS,” Rohrabacher added.
The bill would offer protection for the 23 sates that have legalized medical marijuana programs, in addition to the 11 states where CBD oil is legal. CBD is the non-psychoactive component of marijuana that has been shown to be especially helpful for severe cases of epilepsy.
Some of the most recent studies showing the benefits of medical cannabis have reported it has been beneficial in attacking some aggressive forms of cancer. Cannabis has also shown benefits to blood sugar control and might possibly slow the spread of HIV.
Despite the large number of advocates in Congress and across the country for medical and recreational marijuana, the DEA still classifies it as a Schedule 1 substance with “currently no accepted medical use”. And state compliant medical dispensaries have continually been raided under the current Obama administration.
Hemp, the same plant species as marijuana, but with little, if any THC, also gained some protections in the spending bill. President Obama signed the farm bill into law in February, which allowed for the legalization of industrial hemp production in states that allow it.
There are eighteen states so far with legal industrial hemp production and more than a dozen are working on legislation to get approval for research or legalization of growing industrial hemp.
“For the first time, Congress is letting states set their own medical marijuana and hemp policies, a huge step forward for sensible drug policy,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “States will continue to reform their marijuana laws and Congress will be forced to accommodate them. It’s not a question of if, but when, federal marijuana prohibition will be repealed.”
The spending bill comes into play now as effort by Congress to prevent a government shutdown, as the current spending bill expires on Thursday. The medical marijuana and hemp portions of the bill are just two of many political issues covered in the bill.
It wasn’t all-good news as far is marijuana is concerned in the bill however. The bill did include a rider that would overrule the recent legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington D.C. There have been some issues with the language of the rider however, and advocates for legal marijuana in the nations capital are hoping the measure, which passed last month with 70 percent of District voters, will stay as is on a technicality.
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