Tucked deep inside the new 1,603-page federal spending bill is a provision that effectively ends the federal government’s prohibition on medical marijuana and signals a major shift in drug policy, reports the Los Angeles Times. The bill’s passage marks the first time Congress has approved nationally significant legislation backed by legalization advocates. It brings near a close two decades of tension between the states and Washington over medical use of marijuana. 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.
The Obama administration has largely followed that rule since last year as a matter of policy. The measure approved as part of the spending bill will codify it as a matter of law. Congress’ action marked the emergence of a new alliance in marijuana politics: Republicans are taking a prominent role in backing states’ right to allow use of a drug the federal government still officially classifies as more dangerous than cocaine. “This is a victory for so many,” said the measure’s coauthor, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). The measure’s approval, he said, represents “the first time in decades that the federal government has curtailed its oppressive prohibition of marijuana.”