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Sneaky Congress lifts federal ban on medical marijuana

A few episodes of IFC’s Comedy Bang! Bang! this season have been preceded by a puckish bumper that reads, “Enhanced viewing for Comedy Bang! Bang! available in Washington & Colorado.” The network might need to update that graphic before long, because over the weekend, Congress took a big step toward a nation that can unite in enjoyment of a THC-enhanced Scott Aukerman. It happened with the passage of the “CRomnibus,” a massive spending bill that may have been named by a bunch of stoned Congressman. The Los Angeles Times reports that the 1,603-page bill contains a little-noticed provision that effectively ends the federal prohibition on medical marijuana. As the Times’ Evan Halper explains:

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. But the measure approved as part of the spending bill, which President Obama plans to sign this week, will codify it as a matter of law.

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So while this means little immediate change—Obama had already called off the DEA dogs as far as his administration was concerned—it also means that the next president can’t change course and send G-men to raid dispensaries that are legal under state law. In a broader sense, the bill shifts the legislative norm and inches the nation that much closer to full legalization.

The CRomnibus isn’t all good news for cannabis enthusiasts, though. Maryland Representative Andy Harris slipped his own rider into the bill that would essentially overturn the marijuana-legalization initiative pass by Washington, D.C. voters in November. That initiative made it legal to grow, possess, and exchange moderate quantities of marijuana. Congress chose to block the measure because Congress hates D.C. and enjoys telling residents of the District that they can’t do things that they want to do.

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