NEW YORK (MainStreet) In the last week of May, the House of Representatives decided in a late night, unprecedented vote (216-189) to cut funding for Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration marijuana prosecutions in states where medical marijuana is legal.
170 Democrats and 49 Republicans voted to pass the measure which was added to the Commerce, Science and Justice Appropriations bill, which authorizes annual funds for the DOJ and DEA.
Both medical advocates and the business community hailed the development as a major milestone in the acceptance of marijuana as a legitimate medical substance and the maturation of a blooming, multibillion dollar domestic industry.
Sales and tax revenue from Colorado show that even after legalization for recreational use as of January 1 this year, medical revenues in terms of revenue for the state (even though taxed at a much lower rate) are double that of recreational sales (in sum) as of Q1.
In a triumphant statement after the House vote, Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access, a national patients' rights advocacy organization, described the Congressional vote as "a huge victory for patients."
No longer will we have to look over our shoulder and worry when the next raid or indictment will prevent us from safely and legally accessing our medicine," she said.
Sherer was not alone in her analysis of the development as being "a game-changer that paves the way for much more policy change to come."
Ata Gonzalez, the CEO of GFarmalabs, a marijuana production and distribution company whose edible products have gone head to head with Godiva this year in sales, was in agreement, noting that it quelled the worries entrepreneurs have faced from raids.
"It's an important landmark," he said "And now this means we're one step closer to not having to worry about having our doors kicked down for the sake of proving a point."
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Aaron Houston, political advisor and strategist at Ghost Group, an operating company that specializes in marijuana technology companies, was also unilateral in his assessment of the import of this national political development.
"Congress has finally caught up with the supermajority of Americans across the nation supportive of protections for medical marijuana patients," he said. "This amendment protects people in 32 states and the District of Columbia, comprising an astonishing 60% of the population, who now live in states with medical marijuana laws."
Gonzalez concurred. "The fact that the House passed this vote is testament that the government is finally uniting on a bipartisan front to echo the voice of the people," he said.
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Prosecutions and additional oversight, including a recent SEC crackdown on the day trading, fueled hype around even businesses tangentially related to the vertical have been an ongoing source of legal and financial liability for entrepreneurs who have pioneered the market to date.
This legislative development will mark the end to cases, at least in medical states, where even registered medical users if not those who serve them have been heavily prosecuted in the past.
Additionally, as Gonzalez pointed out, the impact of this development will affect the strength of the DEA in states where the issue will still be contested. "It's been statistically proven that the DEA is heavily reliant on forfeiture money from raids to budget their operations," he said, "and 80% of those forfeitures go uncontested by marijuana-based small businesses and growers."
The face of the industry is most definitely at a watershed point for the entire portion of people for whom this is a vital if not life and death issue. And no matter how hard the road has been for many if not most on the side of legalization, most involved to date are only looking to the future with hope.
"It makes me proud to know that this country is finally taking the initiative to acknowledge and stand behind the marijuana industry and take away the power that has been held by the cartels for decades and put good tax dollars to work for schools rather than prisons," he said.
--Written by Marguerite Arnold for MainStreet