The war on drugs got a little less heated late Thursday night when the House voted 219 to 189 to prohibit the Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration from using taxpayer funds to interfere with state-sanctioned medical marijuana programs.
The measure, as part of the bill funding the DOJ for the 2015 fiscal year, now heads to the Senate, and will need President Obama’s signature if approved.
The Obama administration has been inconsistent in its approach to medical marijuana, saying that prosecuting medical marijuana users “is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources,” but, well, doing it anyway. Members of the Harvey family, known now as the “Kettle Falls Five,” face years of prison time for growing marijuana for their own medical use, legal in the state of Washington where they live. (RELATED: DEA, DOJ Stay Mum on Medical Marijuana Raids)
The Harveys mistakenly thought that because they were obeying state law they wouldn’t be prosecuted on a federal level. Judge Van Sickle has barred them from testifying that they were growing it for medical purposes, saying that doing so would “tempt the jury to disregard federal law” and that explaining the situation “would be confusing to jurors.”
Marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I substance with “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”
The amendment was proposed by GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California and co-sponsored by nine other representatives, including Republicans Tom McClintock of California, Don Young of Arkansas, Paul Broun of Georgia and Steve Stockman of Texas. (RELATED: Congress Can Stop Federal Medical Marijuana Raids)
“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,” said Rohrabacher.
The amendment has been hailed by marijuana legalization activists, with NORML’s Erik Altieri calling it “a resounding victory for basic compassion and common sense,” and the Marijuana Policy Project’s Dan Riffle saying “it’s yet another sign that our federal government is shifting toward a more sensible marijuana policy.”
The amendment was first proposed in 2003 and had come to a vote seven times before passing Thursday night. “This measure passed because it received more support from Republicans than ever before,” Riffle said. “Republicans increasingly recognize that marijuana prohibition is a failed Big Government program that infringes on states’ rights.” 49 Republicans, including Justin Amash, Mark Sanford and Aaron Shock, voted for the measure.