“It’s the first time in decades that the federal government has curtailed its oppressive prohibition of marijuana,” the measure’s co-author, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher
With a large step in the right direction congress quietly ended the possibility of federal raids on medical marijuana patients. The 1.1 trillion dollar spending bill that is preventing the U.S. government from shutting down included a provision that prohibits federal agents from raiding retail medical cannabis operations in states that have legalized it medically. It is of no surprise that congress would secretly and quietly end this war on marijuana as if it hadn’t been a hundred year, nation changing, monumental mistake. One would think that the end of a failed program that had spent over $51 billion dollars, and arrested over 800,000 people a year, and lost out on over $46.7 billion of tax revenue annually, would have rendered a little more attention. It would appear the government does not like to revel in its mistakes. With the size of this mistake, who can blame them? Before the marijuana masses take to the streets in celebration, there is still work to be done.
Unfortunately, within this bill, there was an attempt to end the recreational use of cannabis that just overwhelming passed in Washington D.C. with over 70 percent support. The bill that was approved last week includes a rider aimed at blocking marijuana legalization specifically in areas attempting to recreationally legalize like Washington, D.C. Whether it actually will do that is a matter of debate.
For those who do not know, a rider is an added provision within a bill that usually has little to do with the central subject. These are usually added to sneak by a provision that wouldn’t normally pass by itself. The intention is to add it to an important bill so others will reluctantly pass it to keep the main referendum at the cost of also passing the additional “rider.” Some will even use a rider by adding a provision so terrible that no one will want to pass the bill, thus intentionally killing the bill that they do not want passed. This is called a wrecking amendment or poison pill.
This type of unworthy honor-less political game playing is common place in American politics, as well as many other countries one would imagine. The rider, introduced by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), says:
“none of the funds contained in this Act may be used to enact any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance.”
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), another misguided drug warrior, claims this spending restriction,
“prohibits both federal and local funds from being used to implement a referendum legalizing recreational marijuana use in the District.”
The rider refers to enactment, not implementation. There is a debate over whether the initiative in D.C. has already been enacted and simply needs to be made effective, therefore cannot be changed by this new bill.The Harris rider dealt with spending to “enact or carry out” decriminalization or legalization of any Schedule I drug. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s congressional delegate, says that difference could prove crucial, because Initiative 71, the D.C. ballot measure legalizing marijuana possession, home cultivation, and sharing, “was enacted when it was approved overwhelmingly by voters in November.” The initiative’s elimination of penalties for specified marijuana-related activities is “self-executing,” Norton says, requiring no additional legislation by the D.C. Council or by Congress. In other words, the event Harris seeks to prevent has already happened.If Norton is correct, the rider will not stop Initiative 71 from taking effect, although it will prevent D.C, as well as all other states from moving forward on any other recreational cannabis avenues. That would include licensing and regulating marijuana related businesses since that would require new legislation. Harris also emphasized that he is not trying to interfere with D.C.’s medical marijuana law, which Congress blocked for more than a decade with a spending restriction similar to his rider. But broader legalization is unacceptable, Harris says, because it “will result in higher drug use among teens.” It is amazing that these old prohibitionist cling to these outdated talking points long after they have disproved. Both the Washington Post and USA Today recently posted articles showing a substantial drop in teen use in areas where marijuana has been legalized.
After the majority votes in favor of a certain initiative, it seems almost un-American to have the elected officials, charged solely with carrying out said majority will, independently decide to overturn the initiative. Nikolas Schiller, director of communications for the D.C. Cannabis Campaign, said, “They’re basically overturning an election, I mean, why vote if you’re going to nullify what we said?” D.C. Council Member David Grosso, author of a bill that would authorize licensing and regulation of marijuana growers and retailers said:
“It is disheartening and frustrating to learn that once again the District of Columbia is being used as a political pawn by the Congress, to undermine the vote of the people—taxpayers—does not foster or promote the ‘limited government’ stance House Republicans claim they stand for; it’s uninformed paternalistic meddling.”
Medical marijuana establishments are, for the time being, safe from Federal prosecution as long as the state law allows. Which continues to be a gigantic contradiction as cannabis remains a schedule 1 substance, primarily implying no medical value. Now that Congress has allowed states to freely access medical marijuana it seems almost laughable that cannabis remains on that list. The question also remains, what will now happen to those currently being prosecuted for marijuana related charges that were allowed under state law? What of those currently serving time for the same? It is now the charge of all pro-cannabis crusaders to use this new provision to free patients from more needless judicial prosecution and further incarceration.
With actions being taken by Congress to intentionally change what the American people vote into law, one begins to lose faith in the entire process. That does not mean hope is lost. Despite shifty and deceitful political gaming, the entire movement is continuing to take ground. Decriminalization is becoming a reality and children who need CBD to survive are now able to do so. So much has been accomplished by the unity of the believers. For that, The Last American Vagabond commends you all. Now is the time to push forward and finish what was started. Stay the course and free those unjustly imprisoned. The end is near and the evasive actions of those who would stand in the way only emphasis the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.