It was cannabis Wednesday in Congress, where lawmakers gave the strongest support yet for ending the country's laws prohibiting marijuana use.
In the strongest sign yet that deciders in Washington may soon be ready to undo federal marijuana prohibition, both Democrats and Republicans voted to approve three pro-cannabis budget amendments — and came very close to approving a fourth in support of recreational marijuana.
Bipartisan votes approved amendments forbidding Justice Department officials from interfering in state-legal medical cannabis operations, industrial hemp programs, and laws that allow citizens to access products high in less-psychoactive cannabis compound CBD (cannabidiol).
This is easily the biggest day for cannabis in Congress to date — and it led one pro-marijuana lawmaker to predict that federal cannabis prohibition will be done within five years.
[jump] The pro-marijuana amendments are all meant to limit the Drug Enforcment Administration's reach by cutting its budget. All told, about $23 million was cut from the DEA's budget and shifted to other Justice Department endeavors, like police body cameras and rape kit testing.
And lawmakers are in support. Today was the most significant day in Congress for marijuana yet. Not only was last year's prohibition on Justice Department actions against state-legal medical marijuana operations extended, it was done so by a wider margin.
The amendment authored by U.S. Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) and Sam Far (D-Carmel) passed by a vote of 242-186. That means cannabis picked up 23 votes in Congress; last year's Rohrabacher-Hinckley amendment passed by a vote of 219-189.
The amendment guarding state industrial hemp laws passed by a vote of 282-146, and a Republican-sponsored bill that protects CBD-only legislation — a growing trend in red states, and the foot in the door that could lead to legal weed in places like Texas — passed by the widest margin, 297-130.
It was such a good day for cannabis in Congress that one pro-pot representative made a bold prediction: that within five years, the federal war on weed would end.
— Marijuana Majority (@JoinTheMajority) June 3, 2015
So what's next? Rescheduling cannabis from Schedule I, as the CARERS Act introduced in the Senate would do, would be a good next step. But for now, it's enough to note how far marijuana policy reform has come in America.
“Now that the House has gone on record with strong bipartisan votes for two years in a row to oppose using federal funds to interfere with state medical marijuana laws, it’s time for Congress to take up comprehensive legislation to actually change federal law,” said Tom Angell, spokesman for advocacy group The Marijuana Majority. “That's what a growing majority of Americans wants, and these votes show that lawmakers are on board as well.” “Congress clearly wants to stop the the Justice Department from spending money to impose failed marijuana prohibition policies onto states,” he added, “so there’s absolutely no reason those policies themselves should remain on the lawbooks any longer.”