Momentum for Marijuana Policy Reform at Federal Level
Momentum for marijuana policy reform is sweeping the country.
Over the past few months, there's been real traction in the national fight for marijuana policy reform. High profile congressmen have called for an end to the prohibition on marijuana research, and several States may legalize marijuana in the coming months.
While the pace of change is slow, there have been numerous positive developments in federal marijuana policy this year.
Here is the breakdown of what has been happening:
- The White House ended the Public Health Service Review for Marijuana Research
The White House ended the Federal Government’s requirement for medical marijuana research to go through a special approval process unique only to cannabis research. The removal of this requirement, coming after a bipartisan group of lawmakers called for its end, will facilitate additional research of cannabis and prevent additional headaches for those trying to get funding for research.
- Congress successfully added an amendment protecting citizens from the DEA in States where marijuana use is legal
This policy was a long time coming and came in the form of an amendment that was added to a must-pass spending bill. This amendment would prevent the DEA from using funds to build cases and prosecute marijuana charges in States where medical or recreational marijuana use is legal. The piece of legislation still needs to be passed in the Senate, but after it was passed in the House many people expect it to sail through the rest of the process.
The amendment was added by representatives from California and Colorado and was easily adopted in both the Senate and the House. Now if they would actually get the bill passed, people and businesses dealing with marijuana would no longer live in fear of the DEA storming into their houses for legal marijuana use.
- Senators from both parties introduced a major marijuana policy reform bill in the U.S. Senate
Its name is the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act of 2015 and it would bring legitimacy to the pro-marijuana policy reforms that have attracted significant attention in several states all around the country.
The major changes include rescheduling marijuana as a Schedule II drug – something that researchers have argued for – permitting banks to work with marijuana businesses to open accounts, a necessity for businesses who have been dealing with the logistics of handling all transactions in cash, as well as prevent the DEA from interfering in States where marijuana is legal.
All of these changes are extremely important and represent a huge step forward in marijuana policy. While this bill is unlikely to pass this session it is important because it shows a major shift in thinking and represents Congress taking the issue seriously.
Overall, there is still a lot to be done before our country treats marijuana like it treats alcohol. But the positve news keeps coming: there's more and more evidence that marijuana has many health benefits, that it is less damaging to your body than alcohol, and that in Colorado alone the marijuana market could see sales of $1 billion by 2016.
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