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States Sprint Toward Marijuana Legalization As Feds Shoe Up for Marathon

It is easier to maintain your balance if you are moving forward as opposed to standing still. Twenty-three states plus the District of Columbia and Guam have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes and four states (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington) have agreed to let consumers purchase the drug for recreational use.  In 2016, voters in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada are expected to decide state ballot initiatives on the question of legalizing marijuana. While states dash towards marijuana reform, the federal government continues to move at a glacial “in our own damn time” pace.

On June 3, the chamber voted to lay off medical marijuana – sort of.  The U.S. House of Representatives approved a majority of amendments aiming to shield states’ medical cannabis rights from federal intrusion.  Legislators passed three amendments to prohibit the DEA and U.S. Department of Justice from undermining state marijuana laws. 

For these developments to have any impact whatsoever on producers and consumers of cannabis, the Senate must pass the same or similar amendment, and the spending bill to which it was attached must survive.  This seems as likely as lightning striking Harry Reid’s house on the same day the Duggars join Jeb Bush for a rendition of “Kumbaya” in Kennebunkport, Maine.  

We appreciate the passion and enormous effort upon which U.S. Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) and Sam Far (D-Carmel) proposed this amendment. “Our founding fathers didn’t want criminal justice to be handled by the federal government,” Rohrabacher said during the debate.While the House has gone on record with strong bipartisan votes to oppose using federal funds to interfere with state medical marijuana laws, Congress must take up comprehensive legislation to actually change federal law, and that seems unlikely.

A Commander-in-Chief admitted to inhaling (“that was the point”) occupies the White House yet more medical marijuana dispensaries have been raided via the U.S. Justice Department during Obama’s reign than throughout his predecessor’s (George W. Bush), whose drug of choice was cocaine.  Go figure.

As to the senior law enforcement official in Washington, D.C., new attorney general Loretta Lynch is personally opposed to marijuana, but thinks it is rational to let states decide policies for themselves without federal interference. Nevertheless, Lynch continues to foment ignorance about cannabis, including her belief that marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol.  While the Justice Department may pronounce that it will turn a blind eye in states that legalize the drug, federal prosecutors continue to crack down on dispensaries and other marijuana operations.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently spoke on CBS’ Face the Nation, telling viewers he would revive enforcement of federal marijuana law in states that have legalized recreational use of the drug if he were president. At this rate, by the time folks in Washington, D.C. come to terms with federal cannabis legalization, there will be a cloud of smoke so large radiating from states that have legalized pot that marijuana smoke will be visible from the International Space Station. 

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