While plenty of states have begun to recognize the benefits, the Federal government can’t seem to get their story straight on medicinal marijuana. In the United States, the Executive branch of the government, through the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), labels marijuana as a Schedule I drug. A Schedule I classification means that the government recognizes marijuana as a drug, but believes the drug has zero valid medicinal uses and cannot be accessed by the public. Changing the Schedule of a drug is an extremely long and complicated process, a process in which the DEA is obligated to oppose the rescheduling of any Schedule I drug. This, of course, contradicts established information that has been accepted across the world and scientific community.
Instead of addressing this problem head-on, both the US Senate and House of Representatives have independently introduced measures calling for the defunding of DEA efforts to oppose State-approved medicinal marijuana projects and efforts in 2016. As always in American politics, the biggest motivator behind the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee’s decision seems to be based on following where money and popular opinion are. Costing tens of millions of dollars per year, DEA raids on state-sanctioned medical cannabis distributors have proven to be an extremely unpopular decision with the general public and voting constituents. Rather than enacting the entire rescheduling process, defunding enforcement serves to send a message that going after people with legitimate medical issues is not a good use of government money.
Now, these recommendations don’t guarantee that the funding cuts will go into effect. Until a final budget has officially been passed across both houses and approved by President Obama, these steps are merely preliminary negotiations and agreements. However, things look bright for patients looking to medicate safely without harassment from the Federal government in 2016, as historically budget agreements that have approval in both the House and Senate tend to come out of the budget negotiations mostly intact. These measures will have to re-enacted annually if they pass, but every journey of a thousand miles begins with a single footstep.