Senate Appropriations Committee Votes to Prevent DEA from Undermining State Medical Marijuana Laws

Press Release April 20, 2016
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Contact:</h2>
<p>Tony Newman 646-335-5384<br />
Bill Piper 202-669-6430</p>

In yet another huge victory for marijuana reform, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted today by 21 to 8 to approve an amendment offered by Senator Mikulski (D-MD) to protect state medical marijuana laws from federal interference by the Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration.

“Marijuana reforms are repeatedly winning votes in Congress,” said Bill Piper, Senior Director of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance. “Letting states set their own marijuana policies is now a mainstream, bipartisan issue.”

After decades of inactivity on marijuana reform, Congress has moved at lightning pace to advance marijuana reform in recent years. Last week the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to allow Veterans Administration doctors to recommend marijuana. The Committee approved similar amendments last year as well as an amendment to allow state-legalized marijuana businesses to access banks and other financial services. The Mikulski amendment is expected to pass the full Senate as well as the House. Similar amendments were passed by Congress last year and the year before.

Currently, 24 states, the District of Columbia and Guam have legalized marijuana for a variety of medicinal purposes. Four states – Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington – have legalized marijuana like alcohol. In 2016, voters in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada are expected to decide ballot initiatives on the question of legalizing marijuana for adult use. A slew of recent polls show that significant majorities of both Democrats and Republicans strongly believe that the decision of whether and how to regulate marijuana should be left up to the states.

“This is a very clear message to not just federal law enforcement but state law enforcement as well,” said Piper. “It’s time to end the war on drugs and start treating drug use as a health issue instead of a criminal justice issue.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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