Congress Defers to State Laws on Marijuana

In a bold stroke before the turn of the new year, the 113th Congress of the United States passed an appropriations bill that funds the government through the fiscal year but expressly restricts the Department of Justice from using any of its funding to interfere with state laws on marijuana. Although the Justice Department had largely followed that rule of late as a matter of policy, Congress’s action gives it the force of law.

The bipartisan measure, which passed as part of an overall $1.1 trillion government-funding bill that keeps the lights on through September, bears these words:

“None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

The measure is a remarkable step in the right direction, and it marks the beginning of the end of our badly misguided, counter-productive federal prohibition of marijuana, including its embarrassing Schedule I classification under the Controlled Substances Act.

“This is a victory for so many,” said the measure’s coauthor, Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa. The measure’s approval, he said, represents “the first time in decades that the federal government has curtailed its oppressive prohibition of marijuana.”

Hear, hear. Let’s tag it, #regulatemarijuanalikewine.

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