The budget bill that Congress hopes to pass this week to avoid a government shutdown contains several measures that would keep the federal government's official opposition to the use of pot medically and recreationally from blocking state policies that are more permissive, McClatchy Newspapers reports. Twenty-three states, the District of Columbia, and Guam have approved medical marijuana programs, and four states and D.C. have approved recreational use. A recent Gallup poll found that 58 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana. Medical marijuana use receives even more support.
On Capitol Hill, several amendments would legislate the federal government's hands-off approach on state marijuana policies. One congressional measure would provide legal protection for banks that work with businesses participating in marijuana programs. Other provisions would continue to allow states to create their own policies on recreational and medical marijuana use, and protect industrial hemp research. Apparently, congressional negotiators omitted a proposal to give physicians at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in states with pot programs the ability to make medical marijuana referrals. Current VA policy follows the federal prohibition on all medical marijuana treatment, even in states with approved programs.