Federal Marijuana Ban Lifted? Not Quite, But Bernie Sanders Wants To Win Medical Marijuana Legalization In 2016

Was the U.S. federal marijuana ban lifted completely as some reports claim? While the U.S. Senate quietly did lift parts of the federal medical marijuana ban as part of the spending bill, it is not quite as final as supporters of marijuana legalization would hope. In 2016, Bernie Sanders hopes to win not only the election, but to completely end the federal weed ban with the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act.

In a related report by The Inquisitr, some 2016 predictions claim that Bernie Sanders will win the election by a landslide.

When the newest bit of legislation was snuck into the 2,000-page spending bill, many celebrated the news as legalizing marijuana in the United States.

"The war on medical marijuana is over. Now the fight moves on to legalization of all marijuana. This is the strongest signal we have received from Congress [that] the politics have really shifted," said Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Congress has been slow to catch up with the states and American people, but it is catching up."

The Los Angeles Times even announced the news with a headline that said, "Congress quietly ends federal government's ban on medical marijuana." Not everyone would agree that the headline is accurate, although the provision introduced by Republican representative Dana Rohrabacher does prevent the U.S. Justice Department from spending money in order stop states, including Washington D.C., from "implementing" cannabis laws allowing medical marijuana.

Many states are enacting legislation to legalize marijuana.
Many states moving towards legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational use. [Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images]Writing for Reason, Jacob Sullum argues the rider in the spending bill may not completely accomplish the goal of lifting the federal marijuana ban completely.

"[I]t it clearly does not end the federal ban on marijuana, which makes no distinction between medical and recreational use," writes Sullum. "Even if the rider affects enforcement of that ban in the 23 states with medical marijuana laws, it has no impact in the other 27. Nor does it necessarily end tension between the federal government and states that let patients use marijuana for symptom relief."

Sullum points out other issues with the legislation, including the fact that the rider would have to be renewed in the 2016 spending bill a year from now. He points out multiple other issues, but the biggest is that people do still "need to worry about federal drug agents raiding retail operations" if a state's laws are not clearly defined in regards to medical marijuana dispensaries. Lastly, the rider does not affect the IRS or the Treasury Department, which is huge since marijuana businesses need to pay federal income taxes and maintain bank accounts in order to legitimately function over the long term.

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[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]According to Bernie Sanders, marijuana legalization needs to go a step further in order to say the federal marijuana ban has been lifted completely. On November 4, 2015, he introduced the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015, which is designed to "limit the application of Federal laws to the distribution and consumption of marijuana, and for other purposes."

The proposed legislation is based upon a House version proposed by Jared Polis in 2013, but Sanders' Senate version would remove marijuana from the DEA's list of "most dangerous" drugs and remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act. The main focus for Sanders seems to be on reforming America's criminal justice system, which currently imprisons many people just over the marijuana laws.

"In the United States we have 2.2 million people in jail today, more than any other country. And we're spending about $80 billion a year to lock people up. We need major changes in our criminal justice system – including changes in drug laws," Sanders back in October. "Too many Americans have seen their lives destroyed because they have criminal records as a result of marijuana use. That's wrong. That has got to change."

Unfortunately for supporters of federal marijuana legalization, Bernie Sanders's bill has a ways to go to win. According to GovTrack.us, Senate Bill 2237 has not even gone to committee yet, and they only give Sanders' bill a four percent chance of passing the committee. Overall, they give the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act a one percent chance of being enacted, although if Sanders wins the 2016 election you would assume more emphasis will be put on a similar version of this bill.

What do you think about legalizing medical marijuana? Are you in favor of making marijuana legal across the United States?

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