In compiling next year’s budget, federal politicians have cast a suspicious shadow over legalization.
Since the US government insists on continuing to list marijuana as a schedule 1 Controlled Substance by federal law, new entrepreneurs in the industry should watch the unfolding trends of Washington closely in anticipation of how the feds will react to growing legislation.
The 2015 appropriations bill, drafted by the House of Representatives Appropriation Committee, would block the new Washington D.C. legalization if approved.
The bill “prohibits both federal and local funds from being used to implement a referendum legalizing recreational marijuana use in the District,” according to a summary from the House Appropriations Committee.
This move flies in the face of a voter-passed referendum that managed to gather 69.4 percent approval. That legalization currently only allows small possession and a limited number of plant cultivation. Because the city cannot pass laws through referendum that directly affect the budget of the nation’s capitol, it did not include a retail presence.
If passed, this unfortunate result would stem from the fact that Washington D.C. is a federal jurisdiction and not a part of any state. This designation caused the foundation of the Home Rule Act of 1973, which made each law locally passed in D.C. require congressional approval.
Congress used this same authority to block the implementation of medical marijuana in the city for 12 years and seem bent on continuing the program in check for recreational legalization.
Marijuana entrepreneurs should know about this decision because it hints at possible future federal intrusion into the legalization trend and new business practices. Just because a majority of Americans now support marijuana legalization doesn’t mean that federal enforcement and congressional lawmakers have a kinder attitude towards it.
Mercy for Medical?
It wasn’t all bad news, however. In a wry turn of events, lawmakers extended a bit of a helping hand to the medical marijuana side of things and possibly a bright side to the recreational industry.
Within the appropriations bill, the House forbade budget money to go towards interfering individual states’ medical marijuana programs:
“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.”
The hope is that this provision might curb the rash of federal raids that have marked the continuation of the medical marijuana industry.
Additionally, this provision looks like a hop, skip and a jump away from forbidding federal tampering with states as they expand into into recreation. Though, of course, its difficult to keep those hopes high in light of the decision to block D.C.’s legalization attempts.
Lose your Confusion
It’s hard to get a firm grasp on the federal relationship with recreational marijuana legalization.
The Department of Justice has claimed that they would keep a hands-free close watch on all the states’ activities, which sounds promising. Then, you have a Congressional move like this that points the weather vane in the other direction.
In the future, new lawmakers, new judges and new presidents will have the power to affect the growth of the industry. Entrepreneurs should keep themselves aware of the ever-changing landscape and remember that participation can have a very real impact on the shape it takes.
As always, never be shy about writing your lawmakers both locally and federally. The flagrant disregard for almost 70 percent of voters approving a legal referendum is something that should probably alarm even those untethered to the recreational marijuana industry.