Marijuana Legalization: U.S. Congress Inadvertently Paves Way For States To Decide

Marijuana legalization took a major step forward today, even if it was disguised as a setback. The U.S. Congress failed to vote for outright legalization of marijuana -- an act that brought out protesters, as reported in the Inquisitr, but one provision of a new budget bill could invariably pave the way for states to decide for themselves to legalize marijuana.

The previous budget bill contained language that would effectively overturn the recent Washington, D.C., proposition -- that voters approved -- to decriminalize recreational marijuana use. Also included in the bill were cuts to funding for homeland security and attacks on Obama's immigration reforms. That bill, called the Cromnibus Bill, essentially died, and with it Congress' attempt to overstep what was legally voted on by the populace of the District of Columbia.

marijuana legalization
The amount of money on the table with legalized pot is in the billions, and states are taking notice.

A new budget bill is being written, this one with a better chance to pass both houses and, as the year draws to a close, will most likely pass. This new bill has a provision attached that defunds the federal government's enforcement of drug laws in states where marijuana legalization has been passed by voters. Right now, those states include Colorado, Washington State, Alaska, and Oregon. Without interference from the federal government on drug enforcement issues, these states can now move forward with further implementation of legalized recreational pot -- along with the taxation that comes with it -- paving the way for greater access to users, which in turn will bring in more money for the states.

The key issue here is that there are currently seven other states with varying forms of marijuana legalization bills in due process, and 23 states have some form of medicinal marijuana statutes already in place. Proponents claim that this process has been hindered in the past due to fears that no matter what the voters choose at the polls, the federal government's Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) would just work to shut it all down. If this new budget bill defunds that possibility of enforcement, the states will be free to choose for themselves whether or not they want to jump into what has become, in the last three years, a multi-billion dollar business.

The Law Enforcement Against Prohibition called the measure a "stunning victory." As reported by ThinkProgress, Tony Newman of the Drug Policy Alliance explains what the measure means for the states.

"For the first time, Congress is letting states set their own medical marijuana and hemp policies, a huge step forward for sensible drug policy. States will continue to reform their marijuana laws and Congress will be forced to accommodate them. It's not a question of if, but when, federal marijuana prohibition will be repealed."
This major step in marijuana legalization could also effectively change the classification of marijuana from a schedule one drug (like cocaine or heroin), further erasing the wrongly placed stigma on the naturally grown plant. It could also very well remove roadblocks that are still in place for medicinal marijuana use. Any way it's taken, the amendment in the new budget bill is a major step forward.

marijuana legalization
Proponents are calling the budget bill amendment a "stunning victory" from recreational pot use.

If this new budget passes, and the amendment becomes law, the DEA would be forced to step back on issues of marijuana use and sale on the state level, leaving the decisions to the states and the people living in the states. For the states where medicinal and recreational use has already been passed, it means greater access for users and greater tax incomes for the states. In states where the ideas are just now starting to take hold, this clearing of the path means that very possibly, those next seven states could see legalized marijuana use on the ballot as early as 2016, a presidential election, which usually has higher voter turnout. For proponents, this is a a "stunning victory," indeed.

Marijuana legalization has never been closer. What do you think about marijuana? Do you think it should be legalized across the nation? Are you against it, and why? Sound off in the comments below.

[Images courtesy of AP/Ed Andrieski; Hightimes; RT]