House of Representatives Approves Historic Measure Halting Federal Interference in State Cannabis Laws

House of Representatives Approves Historic Measure Halting Federal Interference in State Cannabis Laws

Appropriations amendments passed to prevent DOJ enforcement in states, territories, tribal lands with legal cannabis markets

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted in favor of an appropriations amendment that would prevent federal interference in legal cannabis programs. The amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Act of 2020, which passed by a vote of 267-165, would prevent any federal funds from being used to target individuals and businesses that are in compliance with state, territorial, or tribal cannabis laws.

Protections for state medical cannabis programs have been included in the federal budget since 2014. The amendment passed today was introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and would, for the first time, extend those protections to states and territories where cannabis is legal for adults. An additional amendment by Rep. Blumenauer would also prevent federal interference in tribal cannabis laws.

“This is without a doubt the biggest victory for federal cannabis policy reform to date, and a hopeful sign that the harmful policies of marijuana prohibition will soon be a relic of the past,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). “Interfering with successful, regulated cannabis programs is a tremendous waste of resources, and only serves to push the market back into the hands of criminals. The amendment approved today reflects a growing realization of these facts by lawmakers.”

A Gallup poll released in October reported that 66% of Americans support making cannabis legal, including a majority of Republicans. A Quinnipiac poll from April 2018 showed that 74% of voters support legislation protecting states with legal cannabis programs from federal interference.

After the overall spending package is passed in the House, companion legislation must be considered by the Senate, and the budget must be signed by the president before these provisions can take effect. Once enacted, the cannabis-related spending restrictions would be in effect through Fiscal Year 2020. The new budget must be approved by September 30 unless a continuing resolution is passed before then.

“The threat of federal prosecution has hung over the heads of responsible, law-abiding cannabis business owners for far too long,” continued Smith. “They deserve some legislative reassurance while Congress considers how best to permanently end prohibition.”

There are currently 47 states that allow cannabis in some form. Thirty-three states and several territories have comprehensive medical cannabis laws, and 10 states as well as the District of Columbia and the territories of Guam and CNMI have made cannabis legal for adults. In May, the Illinois state legislature approved a measure regulating the adult cannabis market, which the governor has pledged to sign. It will be the 11th state to make cannabis legal and the first to regulate the substance through its legislature.

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