The US federal government would not be allowed to spend money
to block states from implementing their own medical marijuana
laws under legislation passed by the House of Representatives
as more states legalise using it to treat various ailments.
The Republican-led House of Representatives passed the
measure as part of a larger bipartisan funding bill. The
measure still needs approval in the Democrat-controlled
Senate, and then to be signed into law by President Barack
Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican who
offered the amendment, called its passage "a victory for
states' rights, for the doctor-patient relationship, for
compassion, for fiscal responsibility."
It seeks to "prohibit the use of funds to prevent certain
states from implementing their own state laws that authorize
the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical
marijuana," according to the amendment, which passed by a
Minnesota this week became the latest of the more than 20
states to put in place laws permitting marijuana use to treat
conditions such as cancer and epilepsy.
"Federal tax dollars will no longer be wasted arresting
seriously ill medical marijuana patients and those who
provide to them," said Dan Riffle, federal policy director
for the Marijuana Policy Project, a group that backs wider
Polls show a growing number of Americans accept wider use of
the drug, while states also see it an a potential new source
of tax and other revenue to fill coffers drained by the
recent economic slowdown.
But some state governors and others see legalizing marijuana
as taking its acceptance a step too far. Some critics also
worry that marijuana's wider use is outpacing the regulations
needed to control it.
Thursday's amendment is part of a larger bill to fund the
Department of Justice next fiscal year, but must still be
squared with the Senate's version of the spending bill.
While the federal government still classifies marijuana as an
illegal narcotic, the Obama administration has signaled
willingness to allow looser enforcement, including
encouraging banks to support state-licensed suppliers.
"This is a historic vote, and it's yet another sign that our
federal government is shifting toward a more sensible
marijuana policy," the Marijuana Policy Project's Riffle