As our readers have likely heard, the potential federal government shutdown has been prevented. A government spending bill that acquired the moniker “Cromnibus” was signed by the president earlier this week.
One might be wondering why we are discussing this funding legislation on our drug crimes blog. It is because among the many provisions of this legislation is a provision involving medical marijuana.
Medical marijuana sits in a strange legal position here in the United States. Several states have legalized marijuana for medical use. Under federal law, however, marijuana is an illegal substance. Thus, medical marijuana has the potential to be a major source of tension between the federal government and states.
Recently, the federal government has been taking actions lowering this tension. In recent times, the Obama administration has by-and-large been steering clear of taking enforcement actions against medical-marijuana-related activities in states where medical marijuana has been legalized. The Cromnibus legislation contains a provision which puts this more hands-off approach into law.
Under the provision, the federal government is banned from using federal resources to engage in actions which are aimed at impeding the medical marijuana laws of states. Thus, while this provision does not directly authorize states to legalize medical marijuana, it does basically take away the federal government’s ability to take enforcement actions against medical marijuana activity that is legal in the state in which it is occurring.
Thus, it appears that the federal government is softening its position on medical marijuana significantly.
One thing it is very important to note though is that, while there are some areas in the law where things are softening when it comes to marijuana, there are still plenty of marijuana offenses out there that carry very significant punishments at both the state and federal level. Thus, being accused of engaging in illegal marijuana activity can still be a remarkably serious matter. Consequently, speaking to an experienced defense attorney can be a wise course of action when one is accused of marijuana crimes.
Sources: NBC News, “Obama Signs $1.1 Trillion Government Spending Bill,” Dec. 16, 2014
Los Angeles Times, “Congress quietly ends federal government’s ban on medical marijuana,” Evan Halper, Dec. 16, 2014