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Spending Bill Defunds DOJ Efforts to Fight Medical Marijuana

The federal spending bill recently passed by Congress may have a dramatic impact on the government's enforcement of federal laws criminalizing marijuana even in states that have legalized medical use of the drug.

The bill is currently awaiting President Obama's signature, reports the Los Angeles Times. But if he signs it as expected, the bill will bring an end to the federal government's prohibition on medical marijuana in states where it's been legalized.

But while the bill signals a new level of tolerance for medical marijuana at the federal level, an amendment still pushes back on Washington, D.C.'s recent passage of a law legalizing recreational use of marijuana.

Defunding Federal Enforcement Against Medical Marijuana

Although the use of some form of medical marijuana has been made legal in 32 states and Washington, D.C., the use of marijuana has remained illegal under federal law. As such, federal enforcement agencies such as the FBI or the Department of Justice have continued to arrest and prosecute those involved in medical marijuana cultivation and production.

But the new spending bill essentially precludes this sort of enforcement by defunding federal efforts to combat medical marijuana. The bill states in part:

None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.

Effect on D.C.'s Recreational Marijuana Law

Elsewhere in the bill, however, Congress uses similar budgetary measures in an attempt to block Washington, D.C.'s voter-approved legalization of recreational marijuana. As the District of Columbia is not a state, its laws are subject to congressional veto.

To be clear, Congress has not vetoed D.C.'s recreational pot law. Instead, the new spending bill includes an amendment that "prohibits both federal and local funds from being used to implement a referendum legalizing recreational marijuana use in the District," according to the House Appropriations Committee.

Even so, the spending bill does not stop Washington, D.C., from decriminalizing the use or possession of marijuana.

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