What’s being called a historic victory for U.S. marijuana reform, the county’s House of Representatives passed an amendment last week that would block the federal government from interfering with state-run legal cannabis programs.
The bi-partisan measure passed by a 267-165 vote and suggests that U.S. lawmakers are interested in carving up broader legislation down the road.
The amendment to one of the U.S. spending bills that funds the federal government will prevent Washington D.C. and any of its agencies — most notably the Department of Justice — from enforcing or writing new laws surrounding the use, distribution, possession, and cultivation of marijuana.
“The historic nature of this vote cannot be overstated. For the first time, a chamber of Congress has declared that the federal government should defer to state cannabis laws,” said Neal Levine, CEO of the Cannabis Trade Federation in a statement.
“The bipartisan nature of this vote is a strong signal that there would be majority support in the House for the STATES Act, which could be considered a more permanent version of this amendment. We hope the full House will be given the opportunity to vote on the STATES Act in coming months so that we can move closer to the end of federal cannabis prohibition.”
Steven Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project echoed the significance of the vote.
“Today’s vote is the most significant step Congress has ever taken toward ending federal marijuana prohibition,” he said in a release. “Congress is recognizing that the federal government must let the states decide on cannabis legalization – and not the other way around.”
The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) told Benzinga that U.S. policymakers are starting to acknowledge the legal marijuana industry is here for the long haul – and it is a job creator and supports small businesses in states where the drug is legal.
“Congress needs to consider ways in which the government can help support these businesses and foster opportunities in the market, particularly for people and communities that have been most impacted by the war on drugs,” said Morgan Fox, NCIA’s media relations director.
The amendment could be the first domino to fall for the plant becoming legal at the federal level while also leading up to the passing of the STATES act (The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States) in the near term.
Industry insiders Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics recently predicted in their annual report federal legalization could happen “in the 2021-2024 period after the next national elections in the U.S.”