States that have legalized medical marijuana can breathe a sigh of relief. The federal government will continue to be blocked from interfering with medicinal cannabis industries that comply with state law.
That move came with the passing of the latest federal spending bill, which included an amendment that prevents the DEA from spending a single penny on enforcing cannabis prohibition in jurisdictions that have legalized medical marijuana.
Congress approved the amendment despite Jeff Sessions’ push for the policy to be discontinued. As of right now, states with legal cannabis will be protected until September 30, 2018, and there is a bipartisan group of members of Congress pushing for these protections to be extended through the 2019 fiscal year as well.
In January, Sessions rescinded a memo allowing states to largely set their own laws without federal interference. In response, some members of Congress are looking into wide-reaching legislations that would protect individual states' medical and recreational cannabis, as well as the businesses in the industry.
In a letter to House appropriations leaders last week, 62 lawmakers said: "We believe such a policy is not only consistent with the wishes of a bipartisan majority of the members of the House, but also with the wishes of the American people."
A separate letter by a bipartisan group of 59 House Republicans and Democrats held similar sentiments. “The issue at hand is whether the federal government’s marijuana policy violates the principles of federalism and the Tenth Amendment. Consistent with those principles, we believe that states ought to retain jurisdiction over most criminal justice matters within their borders. This is how the Founders intended our system to function.”
But until those words carry the force of law, legal states still face the possibility of a federal crackdown. The amendment protects regions that have legalized medical marijuana (for now), but jurisdictions that allow recreational use could be prosecuted at any time.