I attend numerous public hearings and speaking engagements regarding marijuana legalization in Washington State. One thing that I often get asked is “Didn’t President Obama legalize medical marijuana last year?”
The answer is no, marijuana has not been legalized at the federal level. The Federal Spending Bill, which was passed in December of last year, includes protections for medical marijuana and industrial hemp operations in states where those operations are legal. The Spending Bill includes a provision that precludes the Department of Justice from using funds to go after state sanctioned medical marijuana businesses.
These provisions in the Spending Bill represent a step in the right direction in regard to enforcement of federal marijuana laws but the actual federal drug laws have not been amended. Marijuana remains a Schedule I drug per the Federal Uniform Substances Control Act. This means that even in states that have legalized marijuana businesses those businesses continue to face significant hurdles due to federal illegality such as the inability to open bank accounts, obtain commercial loans, denial of federal tax deductions and credits, and denial of bankruptcy protection.
For more information on the regulation of recreational marijuana businesses in Washington State, please contact Heather Wolf.