Congress ends federal government ban on medical marijuana
December 17, 2014 10:14 AM   Subscribe

Congress quietly ends federal government's ban on medical marijuana Tucked deep inside the 1,603-page federal spending measure is a provision that effectively ends the federal government's prohibition on medical marijuana and signals a major shift in drug policy. Under the provision, states where medical pot is legal would no longer need to worry about federal drug agents raiding retail operations. Agents would be prohibited from doing so.
posted by joedan (64 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
CHEETOS FOR EVERYONE!

Seriously, this is good news for a lot of sick people who deserve access to the comfort marijuana can provide.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:16 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]




That is great! Too bad the same Congress won't let DC spend its own money on a marijuana law passed by its voters but still, this is a great step!
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:20 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Just a couple of years ago, Obama announced a policy change (not a legal change) about medical marijuana, and like a week later Fed agents raided and closed something like 50 dispensaries in Washington State.

I'm glad there will be legal backing to prevent this from happening this time.
posted by hippybear at 10:22 AM on December 17, 2014 [11 favorites]


We're also prohibited from advocating for voting representation in Congress. Because, you know, Democracy and all.
posted by schmod at 10:22 AM on December 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


Damn it schmod!

I voted for that law! I am a DC resident and voting on the laws of my city seemed like a reasonable thing to do! Unfortunately, my life and city are MORE DIRECTLY AFFECTED BY CONGRESS than the lives and homes of people who can vote for congressional representatives. In some ways, although I think the measure mentioned in the OP is really good and awesome, it feels like an even bigger "fuck you" to DC residents, like they're saying "the issue isn't even marijuana, it's just really important to use that you not be able to pass your own laws".
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:23 AM on December 17, 2014 [13 favorites]


Excellent. This was a no-brainer as I've been saying for years. Medical Pot polls better than Mom and Apple Pie across demographics. Hopefully the states that are lagging behind start to catch up now.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:25 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


The DOJ also recently said sovereign Native American Nations can make their own laws on pot, as long as they follow the same federal guidance for CO and WA.

The writing has long been on the wall, now it's just being underlined.
posted by rocketman at 10:25 AM on December 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


Our obesity epidemic is about to get worse.
posted by Renoroc at 10:27 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Time: A new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology finds an intriguing connection between marijuana use and body weight, showing that rates of obesity are lower by roughly a third in people who smoke pot at least three times a week, compared with those who don’t use marijuana at all.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:29 AM on December 17, 2014 [25 favorites]


!
posted by Jacqueline at 10:31 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I literally have chills! Somebody, give me some MM and make sure this isn't all a dream.
posted by symbioid at 10:32 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


>people who smoke pot at least three times a week

Oh, you mean college students?
posted by johnnydummkopf at 10:33 AM on December 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


It's not just the decrim itself that's important, it's also the change in the way people will hopefully look at it going forward; ideally we'll be able to throw out all the old stupid garbage "gateway drug to crackhead junkie death" shit. Even when my mom was the most fucking miserable with chemo and unable to even hold down tiny sips of Ensure, she would still recoil in horror and disgust from anyone who suggested she try pot. She probably would have reacted with less revulsion from someone telling her to drink fresh baby blood, all because of the constant and neverending demonizing War on Drugs crap that she bought into for her entire life. In her last month she basically was willing to try anything, including evangelical faith healers, but was still so afraid of what her neighbors would think if they smelled weed smoke coming out of her apartment that she couldn't bring herself to do it.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:36 AM on December 17, 2014 [25 favorites]


Holy hell, first Cuba, then NY's governor bans fracking, and now this.

At this rate, John Cusack's gonna take out a full-page ad in the Chicago Sun-Times to ask me out to dinner. (John: I'd totally say yes. Call me!)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:36 AM on December 17, 2014 [29 favorites]


I don't get it, why do this now? What's story behind this change?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:50 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Our obesity epidemic is about to get worse.

Hardy har but in truth a lot of anxiety disorders center around food and eating and compulsive behaviors. Medical marijuana can absolutely result in reduced obesity.
posted by headnsouth at 10:51 AM on December 17, 2014 [17 favorites]


Wow, man. Far out.

(And seriously, good news. Kudos to whoever tucked that little item in the spending bill.)
posted by Gelatin at 10:53 AM on December 17, 2014


This is nice and all, but I'd like it better if we could get good things done in government without waiting for lame-duck sessions coming out of a heavy swing to conservatism.
posted by ckape at 10:54 AM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Interestingly, here in WA, with the recreational shops/state-licensed system now in place, state legislators are going to bring the regulatory hammer down on the medical side in their next session.
posted by Windopaene at 10:55 AM on December 17, 2014


I don't get it, why do this now? What's story behind this change?

It's been in the works for a while - legislation to do this has been proposed for several years now, and earlier in this congress, a standalone bill with these provisions actually ended up picking up enough Republican votes to pass the House (Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, was a coauthor and has been a big advocate) but died in the Senate. The sponsors of the House legislation managed to get it put back into the cromnibus, and here we are. MMJ legalization is just a mainstream position now - even the House Republicans are split enough on it now that legislation can get passed.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 10:59 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm not happy about the Dodd Frank stuff but if it got this done I'm willing to call it an acceptably cromulent bill.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:01 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


What's funny is that the list of states is actually in the bill, so if other states legalize, the DOJ can go after them.
posted by smackfu at 11:01 AM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Interestingly, here in WA, with the recreational shops/state-licensed system now in place, state legislators are going to bring the regulatory hammer down on the medical side in their next session.

Good. If you don't have a legit medical need, pay your taxes like the functional member of society you are.
posted by Uncle at 11:03 AM on December 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


I've been delighted how public opinion seems to be shifting on this issue lately. I was really surprised to hear that the Livability Index actually uses the price of an ounce of weed as a metric in the Night Out scoring. It's really amazing how normalized this is becoming.
posted by odinsdream at 11:11 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Our obesity epidemic is about to get worse.

I don't know about that, but I bet Etsy will become a Fortune 500 company within the next two years.
posted by maxsparber at 11:11 AM on December 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


Here is a more skeptical take on the new legislation. A quick summary in case you don't feel like reading the Reason blog:

1.) The rider expires at the end of September 2015 and may or may not be renewed.

2.) The language is open to interpretation; federal prosecution of individual growers or dispensaries may not necessarily prevent a state from implementing its marijuana laws. This is (supposedly) especially true in states like California, where dispensaries are not explicitly allowed.

3.) Finally, this legislation affects only the DOJ; it does not for example stop the IRS from making people's lives difficult.
posted by compartment at 11:11 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Time: A new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology finds an intriguing connection between marijuana use and body weight, showing that rates of obesity are lower by roughly a third in people who smoke pot at least three times a week, compared with those who don’t use marijuana at all.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:29 PM on December 17


This is a very small personal sample, but I started smoking on a regular basis 2 1/2 years ago. After an initial weight gain, I actually learned to control my binge eating once high and I've actually lost 65+ lbs since then (nearly 1/3 of my bodyweight).

I know it's anecdotal, but smoking actually made me think about what I needed to do for myself, and being very overweight was something that needed to change.

So I started walking in the evenings after some puffs from the vaporizer, grew to love walking for itself, and then exercise just became a habit. Then I jumped feet first into all sorts of exercise (biking, swimming, running and even body weight exercises - while not high) and the pounds just kept falling off.

I hate to say this because it sounds ridiculous, but I really credit Mary Jane for that. I mean, if you can fight the urge to eat when you've got the munchies hitting really hard, saying "no" to an extra cookie or chips when you're sober is so much easier.

One other point: Taking a walk at night while you're a little toasted and listening to RadioLab is an awesome experience, especially with noise canceling headphones.
posted by glaucon at 11:13 AM on December 17, 2014 [19 favorites]


I can also recommend Welcome to Night Vale on a dark beach.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:17 AM on December 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


but I really credit Mary Jane

Don't call it that.
posted by bondcliff at 11:34 AM on December 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


Amazing!
posted by Arbac at 11:37 AM on December 17, 2014


Don't call it that.

Why not?
posted by sammyo at 11:40 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Why not?

Because some of us are still bitter about One More Day. Fucking Quesada.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:49 AM on December 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


DEA SWAT team breaks down the door

SWAT Team Leader: "Everybody freeze! Get down on the floor!"

Dispensary Owner: "But, medical marijuana is legal in this state, and federally!"

SWAT Team Leader shoots Dispensary Owner

Dispensary Employee: "You'll never get away with this! Our surveillance system uploads to an offshore server in real time!"

SWAT Team: (hearty laughs)
posted by rustcrumb at 11:51 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Time: A new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology finds an intriguing connection between marijuana use and body weight, showing that rates of obesity are lower by roughly a third in people who smoke pot at least three times a week, compared with those who don’t use marijuana at all.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:29 PM on December 17


I wonder if it has something to do with how people manage stress and anxiety. Cannabis seems less likely to cause someone to get fat than alcohol or food, given the relative amounts people use to manage stress, even factoring in a bit of added hunger.
posted by docpops at 12:30 PM on December 17, 2014


More pot = less booze (and the calories therefrom) for most people I know.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:00 PM on December 17, 2014 [10 favorites]


Medical Pot polls better than Mom and Apple Pie across demographics. Hopefully the states that are lagging behind start to catch up now.

We'll see. Here in Indiana, a state legislator is planning to introduce a bill to legalize medical weed. She's tried before to decriminalize pot, but has failed. She hopes this more narrowly-focused bill will win-over the votes.

But, since she's a Democrat, my bet it dies in some backwater committee, no matter what public opinion may be. Legalizing pot for any reason would seriously harm Indiana's drive to be the reddest of the red states.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:14 PM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Maybe we could also consider the idea that there's more to life than just being average weight? And that there are plenty of medications--especially psych meds--that make you pack on the pounds already? And that many people who suffer from medical conditions that can be disabling--pain, anxiety, etc--would happily gain twenty pounds if it meant that they had more control over their lives, and were able to enjoy their lives more?

In the last twenty years, I've probably put on about 250 pounds thanks to the effects of various medications. I've lost maybe 200 of those, and the other fifty seem to have decided to hang around. And you know, I'd still try pretty much any medication that I thought might help, even a little bit, even if it meant I'd gain another fifty pounds that would never go away, because I'd rather be fat and functional than less fat and way less functional.

I mean, I get it. Hahaha, stoners! Also, fat people! Comedic drains on society in a way that alcoholics and anorexics will never be. But maybe a little empathy wouldn't hurt anybody, here.
posted by MeghanC at 1:22 PM on December 17, 2014 [13 favorites]


Oh thank god.

My weed dealer is a nice guy, but my appreciation of him diminished by the fact that he also sometimes sells crack and one time he decided to show me his gun.

I have pain on a daily basis that reduces me to that spider in Harry Potter that undergoes the pain curse. I used to be a drooling opiate-addicted mess. I don't want anybody's pity, I don't want anything that resembles heroin, I just want what enables me to get through the day, including paying my bills, dealing with work, and getting some sleep.

And that thing is weed -- not to be all woo, but it is indeed a wonderful gift from nature.

And I would like to have access to this without interacting with somebody who from time to time shows me what his crackhead clients have given him for crack, in one case an iPhone 6.
posted by angrycat at 1:27 PM on December 17, 2014 [20 favorites]


Maybe we could also consider the idea that there's more to life than just being average weight? And that there are plenty of medications--especially psych meds--that make you pack on the pounds already? And that many people who suffer from medical conditions that can be disabling--pain, anxiety, etc--would happily gain twenty pounds if it meant that they had more control over their lives, and were able to enjoy their lives more?

Absolutely true. In my case, my weight was not healthy and it was affecting me mentally (panic attacks, anxiety, trouble sleeping and more).
posted by glaucon at 1:56 PM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]



>people who smoke pot at least three times a week

Oh, you mean college students?


Yuk yuk, yeah only zany college students smoke that stuff!
posted by Liquidwolf at 1:58 PM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


My weed dealer is a nice guy, but my appreciation of him diminished by the fact that he also sometimes sells crack and one time he decided to show me his gun.

I personally wouldn't deal with a lowlife like that for any reason but sounds like you have no other option and you really do need it. I hope this whole thing helps you extract yourself from having to resort to buying from the cretin.
posted by Liquidwolf at 2:01 PM on December 17, 2014


rocketman: "The writing has long been on the wall, now it's just being underlined."

For me the moment was when a white 40-year-old, Republican-voting, pearl-wearing, Junior-League-membering mother of two that I know started posting all over facebook in favor of medical marijuana legalization in our state and networking through the PTAs and other parent organizations to gather support for its legalization (because she has a child with an unusual form of epilepsy, for which THC oil is helpful, apparently). And when it was legalized she just started ... going to the store to buy pot.

And I was like, yeah, I cannot picture the feds busting this woman who is basically Donna Reed for getting medicine for her epileptic child. And she can't picture it either, to the point that she's posting about it on facebook. This argument has been won, everything left is just cleaning up after the party.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:22 PM on December 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


I've seen an alarming rise in claims recently that pot "cures" cancer. We need less of that sort of nonsense and more science and common sense. It doesn't help the cause, as it were. Next, they've got to decriminalize it entirely, and then move on to other drugs, maybe go the way of Portugal's drug policy, though something like that is probably at least 10 - 20 years out if not more.
posted by juiceCake at 2:32 PM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


>>>people who smoke pot at least three times a week

>>Oh, you mean college students?

>Yuk yuk, yeah only zany college students smoke that stuff!

I'm sorry that my oblique joke about sample bias (that's not even really true) offended your sensibilities. I promise to never judge anyone ever for smoking any amount of marijuana at any frequency for any reason.
posted by johnnydummkopf at 3:01 PM on December 17, 2014


I wonder if it has something to do with how people manage stress and anxiety. Cannabis seems less likely to cause someone to get fat than alcohol or food, given the relative amounts people use to manage stress, even factoring in a bit of added hunger.

I started using pot regularly about six months ago. I've been overweight most of my life and I started getting really serious about losing some weight about 18-months ago. I started with just exercise (basic weightlifting, starting strength specifically but only twice per week) and I got in better shape, lost a bit around my waist but not really any actual weight, I just lost some fat and gained some muscle. So I started trying to eat better and eat less and I found that I spent a fair amount of time each day being hungry.

Recently, however, I just can't eat as much. I put what I think is enough food on my plate to make me feel full without making me feel stuffed and I just can't eat it all and a few months ago I could have eaten that much and more. Now, when I'm high, I still get the munchies sometimes really intensely and if that happens I can still eat the same volume of food that I'm used to so I don't think it's something like my stomach shrinking a bit. I really think that, unless I'm high, my pot use has resulted in a lowered appetite.

I vaguely remember reading somewhere that there was a study (different that the one Drinky Die linked above, I think) that suggested that, long-term, marijuana can act as a mild appetite suppressant for some people. My personal experience would seem to support that.
posted by VTX at 3:07 PM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


I was reading about the cannabis-panic attack link, and stumbled onto the mechanism: precipitous blood sugar drop, which causes a spike in adrenaline -> panic reaction. The same blood sugar reduction is responsible for its protective effect against diabetes.
posted by mullingitover at 4:51 PM on December 17, 2014


I also kind of love the fact that since marijuana is legal in so many states we're starting to see b-roll and stock photos of people smoking it and/or growing it.
posted by VTX at 5:19 PM on December 17, 2014


"Doo-B-roll."
posted by tonycpsu at 5:48 PM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


A dispensary in San Jose has to pony up $71k just to operate in San Jose, turns out.

This is a whole can of worms from I can figure. 1) That's a huge up-front cost that doesn't count the ACTUAL cost of running a business (especially one that requires 24/7 security, screening, etc). That knocks a bunch of regular folks right out of the running. Folks that have been "dispensing" for a zillion years.

2) What's to keep that amount from going up and up? If I were Pfizer, I'd be lobbying the local governments like mad to keep raising this fee, (for the good of the community, of course!) It'll be like the prison unions and private prisons constantly beating the "tough on crime" drum.

3) Are there going to be any safeguards against monopolies?
posted by small_ruminant at 6:38 PM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


This is good news. I think it's shameful that here in Massachusetts, the people decided by vote that cannabis is a medicine, and over two years later there is still not a single dispensary open in our state.
posted by threeants at 6:42 PM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Just a couple of years ago, Obama announced a policy change (not a legal change) about medical marijuana, and like a week later Fed agents raided and closed something like 50 dispensaries in Washington State.

I've never understood this. Obama should have had enough authority to set federal agencies' priorities to make that stick. Did he lie and never give the order? Did directors in the agencies flout the order to dare Obama to incur the political cost of backing what he said? Other?
posted by Zed at 11:02 AM on December 18, 2014


Meanwhile, in far less groovy news:
The Colorado attorney general's office says the states of Nebraska and Oklahoma have filed the lawsuit directly with the nation's highest court. The attorney general's office says the lawsuit alleges "that Colorado's Amendment 64 and its implementing legislation regarding recreational marijuana is unconstitutional under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution."
posted by tonycpsu at 7:27 PM on December 18, 2014


I'm very sympathetic to the idea that the President should enforce federal law equally in every state regardless of state's decisions on their own laws and that ignoring legalization is actually setting a bad precedent. I do not like that they would charge me for something in Pennsylvania that they would ignore in Colorado even though the law is supposed to be applied equally.

Why that lawsuit instead challenges Colorado itself is beyond me. They can write whatever laws they want. Your beef isn't with them because pot is still illegal in Colorado via the federal law. Someone just decided not to enforce it. But hey, that's why I'm not a lawyer I guess. I hope Colorado kicks their ass in court.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:57 PM on December 18, 2014


I do not like that they would charge me for something in Pennsylvania that they would ignore in Colorado even though the law is supposed to be applied equally.

That's an absolutist and not at all practical approach to governance that ignores the executive branch's role in prioritizing limited federal resources, and law enforcement's long-established prerogative of prosecutorial discretion. As long as the law isn't being applied in a manner that discriminates against a protected class, the feds are free to decide how to best allocate resources in order to enforce the law. Nobody actually believes in the fantasy that every law is applied in a truly equal way.

Should we insist that federal education and transportation funding are exactly the same for each state on a per-capita basis, or should we let civil servants and elected leaders decide how to best use those resources to achieve our goals? I see no difference between this and how drug laws should be enforced.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:45 PM on December 18, 2014


That's an absolutist and not at all practical approach to governance that ignores the executive branch's role in prioritizing limited federal resources,

No, I'm aware of it. I'm complaining about it. I don't want the federal government prioritizing prosecuting me for potential crimes over other citizens when we are supposed to be equal under the law. If they think they should not be overseeing pot law than they should be repealing or changing the law to reflect that, not ignoring it. The President is required constitutionally to faithfully execute the law, turning a blind eye to criminal activity in an entire state can only ludicrously be described as fulfilling that requirement. What of the significant minority of voters supportive of pot bans in Colorado? They have to move if they want to be in a territory where federal laws still apply?

There is a limitless can of worms that flows from allowing this sort of thing. President Perry could free Texas from EPA regulations while enforcing them on other states. A huge benefit to the Texas economy and a huge risk of environmental and economic damage to neighboring states. This sort of interstate commerce conflict is exactly what we have a federal government to PREVENT. Allowing the President to unilaterally pick and choose which states are effectively subject to federal law is a disaster waiting to happen.

But again, it's me, Drinky Die. I support anything as long as it hurts the Drug War, so go Colorado and Washington and thanks Mr. President for looking the other way.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:27 PM on December 18, 2014


You're making a slippery slope argument that relies on the notion that this is unprecedented, but I've cited several other totally uncontroversial cases where the executive branch treats states differently with respect to how resources are allocated, yet these are uncontroversial. Why is this any different? States aren't obligated to enforce federal laws, and the executive branch isn't obligated to treat states equally, and never has been.

If there's some kind of specific problem in the future along the lines of your President Perry hypothetical, there are adequate remedies available via the legislative and judicial branches, but the idea that this somehow represents some kind of major regression in equal treatment under the law is absurd.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:24 AM on December 19, 2014


If there's some kind of specific problem in the future along the lines of your President Perry hypothetical, there are adequate remedies available via the legislative and judicial branches

This is exactly the same problem as the Perry situation, and all I am arguing is that those judicial remedies can reasonably be sought. I don't know why you are arguing about it. Allowing mass violation of federal law in one state without regard to the consequences for other states but prosecuting over the border is not resource allocation, it's deliberate failure to faithfully enforce the law. The precedents you site are not that sort of thing.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:15 PM on December 19, 2014


This is exactly the same problem as the Perry situation, and all I am arguing is that those judicial remedies can reasonably be sought.

No, it's actually not reasonable for a state to cite the Supremacy Clause in service of an asinine argument that the Feds somehow have a duty to intervene rather than a right to do so. The Supremacy Clause says that federal laws supersede state laws when they are in conflict, but the state law isn't in any way blocking feds from enforcing the Controlled Substances Act should they choose to do so, and in fact, DOJ has said they will enforce as necessary wherever they want without regard to the legality at the state level, but that they'll devote the resources to other states on their own volition.

This creates no constitutional conflict whatsoever, and the law, with no figures at all to back up claims of problems resulting from the CO legalization, is completely frivolous.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:05 PM on December 19, 2014


I haven't cited the Supremacy Clause. I think we are in agree to disagree territory at this point.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:44 PM on December 19, 2014


Happy to let it drop, but to be clear, I said the states cited it, not you personally.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:37 AM on December 20, 2014


Yeah, and as I said in my first comment there I don't think the states have a case against Colorado.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:17 PM on December 20, 2014


The DOJ also recently said sovereign Native American Nations can make their own laws on pot, as long as they follow the same federal guidance for CO and WA.

What Does Marijuana Memo Mean for Hemp Production and Traditional Uses?
posted by homunculus at 9:57 AM on December 31, 2014




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