Senate Committee Approves Measure Intended to Prevent the DEA From Interfering With State Medical Marijuana Programs

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The Senate Appropriations Committee voted Thursday to renew an appropriations amendment that prohibits the Justice Department, including the DEA, from using funds to arrest or prosecute patients, caregivers, and businesses that are complying with state medical marijuana laws

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill that is intended to prevent the Drug Enforcement Administration from interfering with state medical marijuana programs.

The amendment, authored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), prohibits the Justice Department, including the DEA, from using funds to interfere in the implementation of state laws that allow the cultivation, distribution, and use of marijuana for medical purposes. In October 2015, a federal judge in California ruled that the amendment prevents the DEA from bringing legal action against medical marijuana providers and others participating in the program if they are acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws.

“This measure won’t force the DEA to act compassionately, but it will limit its capacity to act callously,” said Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project.

On Sunday, Pennsylvania officially became the 24th state to adopt an effective medical marijuana law (in addition to D.C.).

“More than 50% of Americans now live in states that have adopted effective medical marijuana laws,” Capecchi said. “The DEA should not be using federal tax dollars to go after patients and care providers who are following state laws. It’s a huge waste of resources, and it often results in seriously ill patients and their caregivers being needlessly dragged into the criminal justice system.”

Sen. Mikulski’s amendment will become law if the full Senate approves the appropriations bill, the House approves similar language, and the president signs it. It could also be renewed by a continuing resolution because it was included in the FY2016 omnibus appropriations bill. The Senate Appropriations Committee first approved the amendment last year, and the House approved a similar measure in each of the past two years

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Stephen Bradley is the editor of Cannablog, a website focused on providing access to news and information about medical and recreational cannabis. Stephen is also a former police supervisor-turned marijuana activist, owner of the Weedbiz™ Network and a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).

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