The House voted Wednesday to approve a measure that blocks the Department of Justice from cracking down on 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 passed by a 242-186 vote. The idea of the amendment is to prevent the federal government, which includes the Drug Enforcement Administration, from using any funds to arrest or prosecute marijuana dispensaries and patients.
Farr and Rohrabacher’s amendment to the CJS appropriations bill passed the House last year and successfully navigated through Congress after it was included in an omnibus spending bill.
“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.”
The vote this time around is ultimately unsurprising. Last year’s vote by 219-189, in contrast, was remarkable, since a version of the amendment had been forwarded eight times since 2003.
“Too many patients, for too long, have suffered under a regime that encourages doctors to prescribe opiates rather than the cannabinoids they deem much safer and more effective,” said Rohrabacher. “It’s the federal government and out-of-control Justice Department enforcers who have acted as the real gateway drug. The good news is that the House of Representatives just took away that deadly connection.”
While the initial idea was to sever the deadly connection, Farr and Rohrabacher discovered that the Department of Justice still maintains it can prosecute individuals and organizations, since the amendment only prevents the federal government from impeding states from executing marijuana laws.
In an April letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Farr and Rohrabacher argued that the DOJ’s interpretation is completely wrong. The two representatives have yet to hear a response from the DOJ.
“Now that the House has gone on record with strong bipartisan votes for two years in a row to oppose using federal funds to interfere with state medical marijuana laws, it’s time for Congress to take up comprehensive legislation to actually change federal law,” Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“That’s what a growing majority of Americans wants, and these votes show that lawmakers are on board as well.”
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