Three Marijuana Victories You May Have Missed

Last week was a busy and important time for the marijuana industry. Not only did business leaders gather together to revolutionize the marijuana industry at the Marijuana Investor Summit, but also the head of the Drug Enforcement Agency resigned in disgrace, a new attorney general was appointed, and legislation was introduced to strengthen the rights of states to make their own decision when it comes to marijuana reform.

For decades, many marijuana advocates and victims of the 40-year-old drug war have known the DEA to be an organization prone to corruption, but never before was it so apparent as when it came to light that DEA agents were having wild sex parties in South America with prostitutes on the payroll of dangerous drug cartels.

When DEA chief Michele Leonhart went to testify before Congress on April 14, 2015, there was little she could do beyond apologize. Then, after a vote of “No Confidence” in the House, she resigned on April 21. Leonhart was notoriously anti-marijuana and claimed the lowest point in her career was when a hemp flag flew over the U.S. Capitol; to be fair, that was before the sex party scandal.

Advocates have rightly called her resignation a victory, and with her departure there stands a potential of appointing a new DEA chief that is more concerned with drugs that are actually dangerous. Will it change policy? No, but one would be remiss to overlook the potential significance.

The appointment of Loretta Lynch to replace Eric Holder as attorney general has been seen by many as a step backwards for marijuana reform. During her confirmation hearings, Lynch was asked about her views on marijuana; to which she said,

“I can tell you that not only do I not support legalization of marijuana, it is not the position of the Department of Justice currently to support legalization, nor would it be the position if I were confirmed as attorney general.”

Such a sentiment is understandably worrisome to marijuana investors and entrepreneurs with money tied to the market, but don’t get overly anxious about it. Lynch was sworn in on April 27, and with rioting in Baltimore and a federal investigation into Eric Garner’s death, she has a lot more to worry about than the marijuana industry.

A promising federal development for the industry has been the introduction of HR 1940, also known as the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015. Introduced by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher on April 22, this bill is a reiteration of a previous bill that failed in 2013; however, if passed, it would add exceptions in the Controlled Substances Act to allow states to make their own decisions on marijuana reform.

With six Democrats and six Republicans sponsoring the measure, HR 1940 has a decent chance of passing. Every GOP candidate, with the exception of Chris Christie, has endorsed the state’s rights position with regards to marijuana reform and that tacit “endorsement” goes a long way in an election year.

The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015 would not necessarily fix the banking crisis in the industry, but additional federal protections would be a step in that direction.

Although there were no legislative or electoral votes, these recent events are still victories for the marijuana industry. An enemy of the industry resigned in disgrace, we got a new attorney general, and Congress moved to protect states that enact marijuana reform. We may not have gotten full legalization, but the obstacles to that goal are slowly being removed.

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