The United States House of Representatives has just voted an amendment that definitely prevents the Department of Justice - which heads the DEA - from interfering with the cannabis laws of US states and territories. Previously, this protection only applied to the medical cannabis program.
Protecting the independence of states
At odds with federal legislation, US cannabis legalizations are constantly under the threat of federal interference. Encouraged under the Obama administration by the Cole memo, statehood independence in cannabis was attacked by Trump's previous justice minister , Jeff Sessions, who sought to remove the memorandum. While the DEA has never acted directly against legal cannabis businesses, the threat of its interference is a major source of uncertainty for the industry.
"The question is whether the federal government has the constitutional authority to dictate to states the policy to adopt on a subject that is limited to their own borders," wrote Tom McClintock, one of the sponsors of the law, in a letter sent to the deputies before the vote. "I do not believe that the federal government has this authority and, even if it does, states should be able to define their own criminal justice policies. This is how our constitutional system was conceived. "
The measure is part of a broader bill to determine the federal government's budget for fiscal year 2020. Specifically, it prevents the Department of Justice from spending money to prevent states and territories from put in place their own laws to authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of cannabis. " A similar measure has already been in place for medical cannabis since 2014 and has since been revised every year in the budget proposals.
A historic vote?
In 2015, a similar measure failed to win the membership of the chamber with only nine votes missing. Nevertheless, at the time, the legalization of recreational cannabis was not as widespread. This time, the proposal was widely approved at 267 to 165.
"This is the most important cannabis policy reform vote that the House of Representatives has ever made," says NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. "The measure adopted today by the Congress underlines the growing power of the cannabis law reform movement and the political leaders' realization that the policies of prohibition and criminalization have failed."
"The historic nature of this vote can not be overstated," said Neal Levine, CEO of the Cannabis Trade Federation." For the first time, a House of Congress has said that the federal government should bow to state cannabis laws." Same story at Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association: "This is without a doubt the biggest victory for cannabis policy reform and a sign of hope that the policies defeated by prohibition will soon be a relic of the past."
Nevertheless, this reform is not yet registered. It must first pass the Senate majority Republican - the majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives voted against the amendment. Even if it were voted, it remains a detail of fiscal policy for the year 2020. It is therefore not a reform in depth as could be the STATE Act, a text that was precisely to prevent definitely any interference by the federal government on states' cannabis policies.
However, this is a first victory for pro-cannabis activists who see the US Congress increasingly won over to their cause. He recently passed a similar law to protect the cannabis laws of the tribal territories and a law allowing doctors affiliated with the Ministry of Veterans Affairs to advise medical cannabis without fear of reprisal. Texts are also under discussion to finally give the legal cannabis industry of the States access to banking services.