The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a far-reaching measure that would prevent the Department of Justice (DOJ) from using funds to stop states and U.S. territories from implementing laws that authorize the cultivation, distribution, possession or use of marijuana and other cannabis products for recreational purposes. DOJ is the federal government’s lead law enforcement arm.
The House measure, approved by a bipartisan vote of 267 to 165 on June 20, was included as an amendment to large scale appropriates bill funding parts of the federal government for Fiscal Year 2020, which begins on October 1. An amendment protecting medical cannabis programs implement by tribal governments was approved a few days earlier.
“This is a truly historic vote, and is the farthest reaching action Congress has taken to reform outdated federal marijuana prohibition policies,” said Aaron Smith, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the National Cannabis Industry Association.
A similar measure was introduced in Congress in 2015 but came up nine votes short of passage. Since then several states have passed laws legalizing adult recreational uses of cannabis products, including California.
The importance of the House acting on this measure cannot be understated, as today nearly one in four Americans resides in a jurisdiction where adult recreational use of cannabis is legal under state laws, according to NORML.
“It’s past time to protect all cannabis programs,” said Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), a co-sponsor of the amendments and Co-Founder of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. “The federal government is out of touch and our cannabis laws are out of date.”
The appropriations measure now goes to the Senate for consideration and inclusion in any final appropriations legislation sent to the President’s desk.