Congress Could Approve Marijuana Measures This Week


Current funding for the U.S. government runs out on Friday, and negotiators from both chambers of Congress are working out details of a spending deal to keep federal agencies operating through Fiscal Year 2016. The legislation could include several important provisions related to marijuana policy.

The amendments in question would:

* Prevent the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws.

-Similar language was enacted last year and is current law for Fiscal Year 2015. On June 3, the House approved the amendment by a vote of 242-186 and on June 11, the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted the amendment by a vote of 21-9.

* Prevent the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state industrial hemp research programs.

-Similar language was enacted last year and is current law for Fiscal Year 2015. On June 3, the House approved the amendment by a vote of 289-132 and on June 11, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the amendment by a voice vote.

* Allow doctors with the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana to military veterans, and prevent the V.A. from denying services to veterans because they are medical marijuana patients in accordance with state law.

-On April 30, the House narrowly rejected the amendment by a vote of 210-213 but on May 21, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the amendment by a vote of 18-12, and its language was included in a bill passed by the full Senate on November 10.

* Prevent the federal government from punishing banks for doing business with state-legal marijuana providers.

-On July 23, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the amendment to by a vote of 16-14.

The measures above were all included in a package of spending bills introduced in October by powerful Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS), representing what he thought could pass the Senate as final funding measures for 2016.

Cochran’s legislation also excluded language from previous years’ spending bills that has prevented Washington, D.C. from spending money to implement a system of legalized and taxed sales of marijuana. If that language is also absent from the final omnibus spending bill negotiators are currently working on, the District of Columbia will be able to move forward with enacting marijuana sales regulations that the mayor and local lawmakers have indicated they support but have been stymied from moving forward with due to ongoing Congressional interference.

House and Senate negotiators are currently battling over several other policy riders related to Syrian refugees, abortion, net neutrality, guns, campaign finance rules and environmental regulations. As a result, it is expected that they will miss Friday’s deadline for arriving at a final deal, and Congress is likely to pass a short-term five-day extension of current funding to avoid a government shutdown, at least until Wednesday.

Stay tuned to to find out which marijuana provisions are in the final spending package as soon as details are announced.

About Author

Tom Angell covers policy and politics for Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit organization Marijuana Majority, which works to ensure that elected officials and the media treat legalization as a serious, mainstream issue. Marijuana Majority led the effort to get the U.S. Conference of Mayors to pass a resolution telling the federal government to respect state marijuana laws, and orchestrated the first-ever endorsement for marijuana legalization by a U.S. Supreme Court justice (John Paul Stevens). Previously, Tom worked for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (All organizations are listed for identification purposes only.)


  1. Prohibitionists are even willing to commit murder rather than admit defeat:

    “Frustrated that people continued to consume so much alcohol even after it was banned, federal officials had decided to try a different kind of enforcement. They ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States, products regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking. Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people.”

    —an extract from: The little-told story of how the U.S. government poisoned alcohol during Prohibition with deadly consequences.

  2. Not going to happen. Congress is made up of prohibitionist and obstructionists…they are the do nothing pack of losers with the worst rating in U.S. history for good reason…they are the criminals…and to do NOTHING is the same as supporting white collar crime, unjust laws, insider trading, etc…
    Congress IS the problem…

    • Oh it will happen. Congress may be the problem but it’s your state govt that’s hampering cannabis legalization these days. We did it here in Washington state, Oregon next door and Colorado too with others on the way. So the feds may not be welcoming all of this with open arms but your state govt is the main obstacle to legal weed right now. The war mongering psychopaths in Congress are much too busy trying to blow up the world over in the middle east than worry or not about pot any more here at home. And if they’re thinking about it at all it’s with $$ in their eyes…

      • Dude, the article says “this week”…AND the state is afraid of losing federal funds HERE!!!! in MD…it is at the FED level that is the problem and MAYBE collectively there will be change…but it can all go away in a bad election of a Republican who then will be in control of all 3 branches of government…and that would be all she wrote for another 5 years…dude.

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