Weed Wednesday: Congress to vote on several cannabis laws tomorrow

By Oscar Pascual |

Federal lawmakers are preparing for a cavalcade of cannabis law reform to come through Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

At least half a dozen marijuana-related appropriations amendments are expected to be introduced that would add further restrictions to the Justice Department’s authority over state recreational and medical cannabis laws, The Hill reports.

The amendments come as part of the Justice Department’s funding bill, which sets the terms under which the agency can spend its budget. (And they come in the days after a Lake Tahoe-area medical cannabis dispensary was raided by state and federal law enforcement).

The long list of appropriations has several marijuana advocacy groups pushing to gain support from lawmakers.

“The politics have continued to shift in favor of marijuana law reform,” said Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, to the Hill.

Under an amendment expected from U.S. Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) and Sam Farr (D-Carmel), the Department of Justice (DOJ) would be prohibited from using federal funds to interfere with any of the states’ medical marijuana laws that are in place. The measure was approved for the first time in 2014 but must be renewed annually alongside the DOJ’s spending bill.

Another amendment proposed by California Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Roseville) and Colorado Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder) would limit the DOJ even further, by prohibiting federal law enforcement from interfering with any state marijuana law, whether it be for medical or recreational use.

And yet another amendment by Oregon’s Rep. Suzanne Bonamici would also protect state hemp laws from the DOJ, paving the way for farmers to grow industrial hemp throughout the U.S.

Several other pot amendments are in the works, including one that would shift money in the Drug Enforcement Agency’s budget away from enforcing marijuana laws, as well as another that would fund treatment programs for veterans.

“For a long time, lawmakers treated marijuana as a third-rail issue that was too dangerous to touch,” Angell told the Hill. “But now that polling shows a growing majority of voters supports ending prohibition, more and more elected officials are starting to realize that demonstrating leadership on this issue has political benefits instead of harms.”

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