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President Signs Federal Spending Bill Protecting State Sanctioned Medical Marijuana Programs

Thursday, 18 December 2014

"The federal government will finally respect the decisions made by the majority of states that passed medical marijuana laws"

President Signs Federal Spending Bill Protecting State Sanctioned Medical Marijuana Programs

Washington, DC: President Barack Obama signed spending legislation into law on Tuesday that includes provisions limiting the Justice Department's ability to take criminal action against state-licensed individuals or operations that are acting are in full compliance with the medical marijuana laws of their states.

Specifically, an amendment sponsored by California Reps. Dana Rohrbacher and Sam Farr to the $1.1 trillion spending bill states, "None of the funds made available in this act to the Department of Justice may be used ... to prevent ... states ... from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana."

Said Farr following the passage of the measure: "The federal government will finally respect the decisions made by the majority of states that passed medical marijuana laws. This is great day for common sense because now our federal dollars will be spent more wisely on prosecuting criminals and not sick patients."

Similar language prohibiting the Justice Department from undermining state-sanctioned hemp cultivation programs was also included in the bill.

Also contained in the appropriations measure is a rider sponsored by Maryland Republican Andy Harris that seeks to limit DC officials' ability to fully implement a November 2014 municipal initiative depenalizing the personal adult possession and cultivation of cannabis. At this time however, it remains unclear whether the language is written in a manner that can prevent District officials from enacting the voter-approved measure. On Saturday, The Washington Post reported that DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson "plans to ignore the provision" and that he will "send a bill implementing Initiative 71 to Congress in January for a 30-day review, during which federal lawmakers can veto it or let it stand." Such a review is necessary before any DC initiative can become law.

Washington DC's Initiative 71, which was approved by 70 percent of District voters, removes criminal and civil penalties regarding the adult possession of up to two ounces of cannabis and/or the cultivation of up to six plants.

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, or Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director, at: (202) 483-5500.