Capping a long losing streak in Congress, the once-untouchable Drug Enforcement Administration suffered another indignity when the Senate Appropriations Committee voted, 16-14, in favor of legal, recreational marijuana, Politico reports. It was an amendment to allow marijuana businesses access to federal banking services, a landmark shift that will help states like Colorado, where pot is legal, to integrate marijuana into their economies. It marked the first time that either house of Congress has voted to advance legislation concerning legal marijuana. “The amendment was a necessary response to an absurd regulatory morass,” said Montana Sen. Steve Daines, one of the three Republicans to support the amendment.
Just last year, then-DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart dismissed President Obama's views on marijuana in public and got away with it because she had friends in Congress. Her friends rapidly disappeared over various missteps and she left the agency. Then the House committee overseeing the Justice Department’s budget cut DEA funding by $23 million, including slashing the marijuana eradication unit budget in half and shutting down the DEA bulk data collections program. Politico concludes that, “The string of setbacks, cuts and handcuffs for the DEA potentially signals a new era for the … agency—a sign that the national reconsideration of drug policy might engulf and fundamentally alter DEA's mission.” “The DEA is no longer sacrosanct,” said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tn.)