No, Congress did not just vote to crack down on pot
Marijuana people felt shivers up their spines this week as rumors swirled of Congress deciding to let the feds crackdown on legal pot.
It didn't. The feds aren't coming. At least not yet.
"Things are in the same general spot as they have been in for quite a while," says Mason Tvert, spokesperson for Vicente Sederberg, the nation's preeminent marijuana law firm, and one of the people most responsible for legalizing weed in Colorado.
Since Donald Trump became president and installed anti-drug zealot Jeff Sessions as top cop, marijuana growers, retailers, patients and doctors have been listening for the footsteps of the Federal Government rushing in to squash legal pot.
This week, they thought they heard fascist footfalls when the House Committee on Rules blocked a vote on an amendment called Rohrabacher-Blumenauer protecting medical cannabis users and distributors from federal interference. The rule right now is the feds can't spend a dime to go after medical pot. A vote on this amendment would have extended those protections indefinitely. Since it failed, the protections end in December.
Understandably, weed folks freaked out.
"Congress just voted to come after us," one self-described stoner in Colorado said after hearing the news.
The press got in on the hysteria, too. "The house just stripped medical marijuana states of protection from the DEA," wrote Civilized. Congress "gives medical marijuana users a good reason to be paranoid," wrote Market Watch. "Congress puts cannabis industry on high alert," wrote Forbes.
None of these headlines are untrue. It's just that it's a confusing time to be a medical pot person. It's treated as both a medicine and a vice, a cure and a curse. It's legal in 30 states, but illegal at the federal level. It's legal to buy it, but you could lose your job for smoking it. The president is for it, having said "medical marijuana … I'm in favor of it a hundred percent" and "I really believe we should leave [medical marijuana] up to the states." But his legal eagle, Sessions, is eager to destroy it.
Despite the confusion, and despite congressional inaction, nothing has fundamentally changed, adds Tvert.
"There's not any reason to believe at this point that they plan to go after medical marijuana," he continues. "The administration has not changed any policies, and has given as many indications that it intends to maintain policies as it has given that it will change things."
However after protections lapse in three months, Trump can change his mind and sic the drug dogs. So Tvert is lobbying congress to pass Rohrbacher-Blumenauer.
"There's near universal support for medical marijuana," he says, citing a Quinnipiac Poll that found 94 percent of people support "allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if their doctor prescribes it."
"We hope both parties will take into account how strong support is for marijuana is nationwide," Tvert adds, and pass some permanent protections. That way, pot people can finally smoke in peace.