By Karen Weise
As Jon Stewart mockingly noted on Tuesday night, the $1.1 trillion federal appropriations bill is packed with all sorts of nuggets that weren’t widely touted. In addition to the list Stewart scrutinized, 85 words tucked into the 1,603-page bill give for the first time some federal legal protection to medical marijuana use, even though pot itself will still be illegal under federal law.
The amendment forbids the Justice Department from using federal funds for anything that will “prevent” states from implementing their own laws that legalize medical marijuana. Taylor West, the deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said that will prevent the feds from policing medical pot customers and providers who operate legally under state law. “Those federal funds cannot be used to raid them or shut them down” just for existing in the first place, she said.
The amendment was sponsored by two California representatives. Republican Dana Rohrabacher’s district covers coastal Orange County, which has become home to several marijuana businesses, including the investment firm Ghost Group, a Rohrabacher donor. Democrat Sam Farr’s district covers the Central Coast, including Santa Cruz, where interest in this issue is, well, obvious.