SPOKANE, Wash. - Lawmakers in Congress voted to restrict DEA funding so that the feds wouldn't go after medical marijuana operations in states where it's legal. It's one of the first signs U.S. lawmakers are looking to end the war on cannabis.
Basically this legislation would mean medical marijuana growers following the rules wouldn't have to fear being raided by the DEA. The DEA would have to focus their resources elsewhere.
"It's come about and we're still going to keep pushing forward until we get the results we want, that's why we vote," Joseph Harrison at Kouchlock Productions said.
That's what the U.S. House of Representatives recognized in its vote, passing a measure to block federal agents from pursuing legal medical marijuana operations.
"They're not going to be singled out and targeted and they're not going to be arrested and that's definitely the key point to this," Harrison said.
It's unknown how it would affect pending court cases like the Kettle Falls Five, a small group claiming they each grew separate medical cannabis plants on one property. Prosecutors say what they're doing still violates federal law and the defendants face up to five decades in prison if convicted.
"For 15 plants apiece and there were five of us in on the job, and we thought we were legal for 75 plants," defendant Larry Harvey said.
The trial is scheduled to begin in July while just down the road stores will be selling recreational pot legally.
Local Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers voted against the amendment. When asked for comment on this story, she was unavailable for an interview but her office submitted the following statement on her behalf:
"The congresswoman believes that state marijuana operations should be effectively regulated and enforced - for the prevention of marijuana abuse, criminal activity, or illegal use. The amendment directly interferes with the DEA's ability to hold states accountable and keep people safe."
Whether the amendment passes or fails for people like Harrison it's a landmark vote to protect patients.
"A step towards the right direction as far as getting cannabis removed as a Schedule One drug," Harrison said.
For the measure to be signed into law it would also need to be passed by the Senate and be signed by President Obama.