WASHINGTON D.C. 3 June — In a day of wins for cannabis reform, the House voted by a significant 242-186 majority to reauthorize a bipartisan measure designed to prevent Department of Justice interference in states where medical marijuana is legal.
Sponsored by Democratic Rep. Sam Farr and GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, the amendment to the fiscal 2016 Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations bill prevents the use of federal funds for the arrest or prosecution of medical marijuana dispensaries and patients. The measure means the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) must respect the laws of states where medical marijuana is legal.
“The majority of the states have said they want medical marijuana patients to have access to the medicine they need without fear of prosecution,” said Farr in a statement. “For the second year in a row, the people’s house has listened to the will of the people and voted to give them that access.” Farr and Rohrabacher also successfully shepherded an amendment through Congress last year after it was included in an omnibus spending bill.
“Latest Victory in a Quiet Revolution”
Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) hailed the passage as “the latest victory in a quiet revolution underway across America to reform and modernize our marijuana laws.” Blumenauer authored the Veterans Equal Access Amendment to the House appropriations bill, which was narrowly defeated recently. “We made incredible progress today through passage of amendments that remove the threat of federal interference from state hemp and medical marijuana laws,” said Blumenauer in a press release, noting that “Action today demonstrates the forward momentum on this issue in Congress.”
The Polis / McClintock Measure Failed Narrowly
Increasingly, as polling continues to show public opinion shifting in support of legalization, appropriations amendments are being used as leverage, moving federal lawmakers toward reform. A swathe of cannabis-related appropriations bill amendments were considered, largely aimed at curtailing DOJ interference with state laws pertaining to cannabis by tightening the terms under which the agency may use its federal funding. The most progressive measure, by Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Tom McClintock (R-CA) attempted to further limit DOJ by preventing use of federal funds to interfere with any state marijuana law, including recreational use. However, their amendment was narrowly defeated by a vote of 206 to 222.
A Win for Industrial Hemp, Too
In another victory for common sense, an overwhelming majority vote of 282 to 146 gave protection to industrial hemp farming through the amendment authored by Reps. Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) which prohibits the DEA from interfering with programs in states that have legalized hemp. A similar measure was first passed in 2014 after the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) seized shipments of hemp seeds destined for legal research programs in Kentucky and Colorado.