In a huge win for marijuana reform, the United States House voted 219-189 in favor of the Rorhabacher-Farr Amendment to the government’s appropriations bill. The amendment, simply put, bars the US Department of Justice from spending any taxpayer dollars to interfere with people and businesses that are in compliance with medical marijuana laws in 22 states and the District of Columbia.
The Department of Justice includes the Drug Enforcement Administration… so no more DEA raids of medical marijuana dispensaries and gardens! No more harassment and arrest of medical marijuana patients!
Justice also includes the US Attorneys’ Offices… so no more threatening US Attorney letters to governors who try to implement dispensaries! No more seizure threats against the landlords who rent to the marijuana dispensaries!
The appropriations bill still must be heard by the Senate, which is likely to have its own funding scheme for the DEA. Both versions would then be heard by a conference committee, which the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment would have to survive in order to be signed into law by the president. So it’s not a done deal yet and you can bet that DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart will be lobbying as many congressmen as she can to strike that amendment.
Still, the 219-189 vote stands as a milepost in how far federal acquiescence to the people’s will for medical marijuana has come. The previous six times the Amendment has been voted on from 2003-2012, it failed with 165 or fewer “yes” votes and 259 or more “no” votes. From just 2012 to tonight, 163 “yes” votes became 219 “yes” votes, a swing of 56 votes. That’s one-eighth of the House of Representatives.
Today’s amendment was truly bipartisan, offered by five Republicans and five Democrats: Reps. Rohrabacher (R-CA), Farr (D-CA), Young (R-AK), Blumenauer (D-OR), McClintock (R-CA), Cohen (D-TN), Broun (R-GA), Polis (D-CO), Stockman (R-TX), and Lee (D-CA). It was promoted in The Daily Caller, a popular inside-the-Beltway website, by Ethan Nadelmann, head of the progressive Drug Policy Alliace, and Grover Norquist, head of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform. The vote wasn’t as bipartisan, however, with only 49 Republicans joining 170 Democrats to pass the Amendment.
Yet those 49 Republicans represent a shift on medical marijuana on the right side of the aisle. “This measure passed because it received more support from Republicans than ever before,” explained Dan Riffle of Marijuana Policy Project in a statement. “It is refreshing to see conservatives in Congress sticking to their conservative principles when it comes to marijuana policy. Republicans increasingly recognize that marijuana prohibition is a failed Big Government program that infringes on states’ rights.”
"Radical" Russ Belville is the host of The Russ Belville Show.