Barely avoiding another government shutdown last week, Congress approved a $1.1 trillion spending bill giving medical marijuana patients and dispensaries alike, something to help them sleep at night, besides top shelf indica. Discretely detailed within the 2,000 page spending bill approved by Congress, were major medical marijuana reform provisions, intended to limit the Drug Enforcement Agency's resources needed for interfering with state medical marijuana laws and research. Although deemed as a hard fought victory for the medical marijuana community, these "renewed" amendments from a prior spending bill only address some
of the concerns brought to question by patients seeking real change in medical marijuana reform, while leaving others to fall on deaf ears.
The Situation Prior to the Bill's Approval
Prior to passing the first version of lifting the federal ban of medical marijuana
in December of last year, the DEA had free reign and jurisdiction to raid marijuana dispensaries in states where local and state medical marijuana laws were established. Not only were raids permissible, but reasons concerning why the raids were happening in the first place could be swept under the rug of federal illegality and the fact that marijuana, even for medicinal use, is still a schedule 1 narcotic.
Citing a recent press release
, explaining the significance of renewing medical marijuana reform amendments first suggested by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA), executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), Maj. Neil Franklin, states that "Patients who benefit from medical marijuana should not be treated like dangerous criminals, and the businesses that support them need to be protected from the old drug war mentality that still runs deep within the DEA."
What the Spending Bill Failed To Address
In spite of Senate approval, the newly passed spending bill failed to address the need of allowing veterans access to medical marijuana to assist with PTSD, which seemed like a "no brainer" to pass considering marijuana's known medicinal benefits for treating stress and insomnia. Demonstrating the frustration that so many Veterans face when returning home from war with symptoms of PTSD that can't be treated with conventional pharmaceuticals, Dakota Serna is a recent example of why this spending bill fails to address the needs of Veterans.
Deemed outright controversial, especially for a Senate meeting floor, Serna's testimony regarding HB 4209's effects on medical marijuana patients, shows yet another conflict of interest between politicians and the needs of Veterans when it comes to medicinal cannabis. (Update)
After being kicked out of the Senate meeting in Michigan, Serna was informed by Senate police that he would be "monitored" via Facebook, for making Senator Rick Jones "nervous" . In candid response, Serna wrote on his Facebook page the following: "I may be upset, but I wish no harm on anyone. A peaceful mindset. That’s one of the true beauties of cannabis. Crazy what standing up for our basic rights does to those who make the rules.” Not exactly the response you'd expect from a crazed marijuana maniac. You can see the full interview with Serna following his Senate dismissal (here
In light of not addressing suitable alternatives for Veterans suffering from PTSD, the bill also failed to approve the allowance of legitimate banking services for marijuana dispensaries
, many of which deal in cash only business, raising a litany concerns for government financial agencies and dispensaries alike.
Recreational Legalization on the Horizon?
Although riddled with bittersweet resolve, the new spending bill should come as a breath of fresh air for the cannabis community, signaling that Congress is finally shifting their old-school policies. Federal dollars that were once spent on raids and policing the 32 states where medical marijuana laws are in place, can now be spent more intelligently on actual crime, and not patients in need of medicine. With recreational legalization far on the horizon, this recent renewal of medical marijuana reform gives advocates new amendments to refine and target on the medicinal spectrum, as the quest for full legalization continues to be deliberated by Congress.