Legal cannabis businesses across America are breathing a sigh of relief this week after their government voted to protect them from federal interference.
On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure to block the Department of Justice from using federal funds to meddle with states or First Nations that have recreational or medical cannabis laws.
This builds off of pre-existing laws that protected state-level medical cannabis programs from the Department of Justice.
The bi-partisan bill was put forward by Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer and passed 254 to 163, with 13 abstaining. Long-time legal weed supporter Blumenauer is also the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.
“In all, 47 states have legalized some form of cannabis use. This year, voters in six more states will decide on future progress,” Blumenauer said just before the vote on Thursday. This represents a revolution of shifting attitudes within the country, while the federal government remains “trapped by the dead hand of Richard Nixon’s war on drugs,” he said.
Watch the House debate the amendment here:
The amendment will protect tens of millions of consumers and businesses who are legally operating within state laws, according to cannabis advocacy group NORML.
It will also protect what Blumenauer calculated to be US$2 billion of tax revenue collected from these legal businesses by state and local government.
“This is the most significant vote on marijuana policy reform that the House of Representatives has taken this year,” NORML political director Justin Strekal said in a statement.
“The importance of this bipartisan vote cannot be overstated as today; nearly one in four Americans reside in a jurisdiction where the adult use of cannabis is legal under state statute. It is time for Congress to acknowledge this reality and retain these protections in the final spending bill.”
The next logical step for the government to take is to end prohibition, Strekal said.
“Make no mistake, that day is coming,” Blumenauer said in his pre-vote speech. “Over two-thirds of American voters support it, including a majority of republican voters.”
The amendment was opposed by Republican Representative Robert Aderholt, who cited concerns over a lack of evidence that cannabis can have any medical or therapeutic benefits.
“Claims of benefits from smoked or ingested marijuana are very unreliable and generally outright fabrication,” Aderholt said. “However, it is an established fact that marijuana has real health and social harms. This is true especially in children.”
Aderholt said Thursday’s amendment would send the message to youth that smoking cannabis is healthy.
After passing with support from 222 Democrats and 31 Republicans the amendment will have to get through the republican-controlled senate.
Top image via Deposit Photos