In a historic move late last night, the U.S. House passed an amendment barring the U.S. Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration from going after medical marijuana operations and users in states where it is legal on a 219 to 189 vote – one vote more than it needed to be approved.
Look outside, you might actually see pigs flying today.
While the move sounds like a lot of grandstanding and leaves a lot of interpretation up to the Justice Department – which has already lied and said it will use discretion when going after cases – if approved by the Senate the bill could actually allow medical marijuana patients and growers to bring up state medical marijuana laws at federal trials.
The amendment, sponsored by California Sens. Dana Rohrabacher and Sam Farr still has several procedural moves to make before it is ratified, but most suspect it will move on to the Senate. Rohrabacher, a Republican, called the bill a “no brainer” when debating it with his colleagues. Framing the argument for his conservative counterparts, he pointed out the state’s rights issues.
“Some people are suffering, and if a doctor feels that he needs to prescribe something to alleviate that suffering, it is immoral for this government to get in the way,” Rohrabacher said, his voice rising. “And that’s what’s happening.”
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon, has also campaigned for marijuana law reform. “The conflicting nature of state and federal marijuana laws has created an untenable situation,” Blumenauer said to reporters before the debate last night. “It’s time we take the federal government out of the equation so medical marijuana business owners operating under state law aren’t living in constant fear of having their doors kicked down in the middle of the night.”
Tom Angell, president of the marijuana majority says the vote is a historic one that shows how the pendulum has swung in favor of rational cannabis laws.
“This historic vote shows just how quickly marijuana reform has become a mainstream issue,” he said in a release late last night. “The last time a similar amendment came up it didn’t come very close to passing but, since then, more states have passed medical marijuana laws and a couple have even legalized marijuana for all adults. More states are on this way later this year and in 2016, and it’s clear that more politicians are beginning to realize that the American people want the federal government to stop standing in the way. If any political observers weren’t aware that the end of the war on marijuana is nearing, they just found out.”
The measure still has a long way to go, and how much it would do to stop the DEA and Justice Department from going after medical marijuana business owners or growers they claim aren’t following state laws or that are breaking other federal laws like possession of firearms with a controlled substance.