Federal Government Eases Up On Medical Marijuana, Ends Prohibition

Over the weekend, Congress passed a spending bill that drew very little media attention. One small part of the 1,600+ page document is a huge step forward for advocates of legalizing medical-grade weed. The federal prohibition against medical marijuana has come to an end, and the medical marijuana dispensaries in states that allow medicinal cannabis no longer have to worry about the federal government interrupting their operations.

As the L.A. Times reports, there has long been tension between the federal government and states that want to provide their residents with access to medicinal marijuana. While the Obama Administration has intentionally eased up on pressuring states that allow weed for those with a prescription, the fact that all forms of cannabis were previously prohibited by federal regulation made running a medical marijuana shop very difficult.

The most recent (and unforeseen) problem that the industry faces is purely financial. As noted by The Atlantic, since marijuana laws still prohibit all uses of marijuana, most banks refused to offer any services to owners of medicinal marijuana dispensaries. Without access to a bank, the shops often found themselves with a substantial amount of cash and nowhere to deposit the funds. Criminals were well aware of this, and those who operated the shops had to come up with ways to transport their cash safely.

With the new legislation having been passed, the medical marijuana dispensaries and clinics should have an easier time finding banks to work with. In addition, they no longer have to fear that federal agents will suddenly break down their doors and confiscate their inventory.

Wednesday, news from Washington gave further proof that the federal government’s position on marijuana laws is becoming more lax. As CNN reports, the Obama Administration is urging the Supreme Court to dismiss a case brought to them by states bordering Colorado. Colorado (where Snoop Dogg’s brand of weed was recently introduced) is one of just four states, as well as the District of Columbia, that has legalized both medicinal and recreation pot. Neighboring states such as Nebraska and Oklahoma claim that Colorado’s state laws make it easier for residents of their own states to smuggle in the drug across state lines.

When the case was brought before the SCOTUS earlier this Spring, the Justices asked for the opinion of the Executive Branch. The Solicitor General of the United States, Donald Verrilli, said the following as he represented the Obama Administration’s stance.

“Entering the type of dispute at issue here — essentially that one state’s laws make it more likely that third parties will violate federal and state law in another state — would represent a substantial and unwarranted expansion of this Court’s [jurisdiction].”

Verrilli also noted that the case should have been taken to the appropriate district court instead of going straight to the Supreme Court.

The decision to end prohibition against medical marijuana comes after 23 states and the District of Columbia already voted to legalize medicinal cannabis. Marijuana laws in states like Minnesota and Nebraska were recently loosened, as it pertains to medicinal use. Senators in New Jersey have been pressuring Governor Chris Christie to legalize weed for all uses in their state.

The debate over the legalization of marijuana is far from over, but the end of federal prohibition against medicinal uses of the drug is a huge victory for advocates of medical marijuana.

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