House Votes to Defund Federal Interference with State Medical Marijuana Laws

Marijuana leave red white blue 506px x 303pxState medical marijuana laws may soon stand on firmer ground. On Friday, June 1, 2014, the U.S. House of Representatives, controlled by the Republican Party, voted to prohibit the Department of Justice from distributing federal taxpayer funds to state and local law enforcement officers to act contrary to states’ medical marijuana laws. The bill now heads to the Democrat-controlled Senate.

California, along with 21 other states, notably Washington and Colorado, permits the use, distribution, possession, and cultivation of medical marijuana. By providing funds to enforce federal, rather than state, regulations, the federal government had interfered with the states’ work to set drug policy. The 219-189 vote, on Amendment 25 to the 2015 Commerce, Justice, & Science (CJS) appropriations bill reflects a sea change in how the country is viewing states’ rights and legalization. The Amendment itself was bipartisan, and was authored by Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, from Huntington Beach, and Democrat Rep. Sam Farr, from Carmel.

The breakdown of the vote: 170 Democrats and 49 Republicans in favor, and 172 Republicans and 17 Democrats against, reveals there is still a strong party split on the issue of legalization.

There are reasons other than the public’s positive view of medical marijuana that have pushed the House in this direction. DOJ’s budget is decreasing, but the agency is seeking to accomplish new goals. The agency wants to add many more attorneys to its staff. It hopes to prosecute financial and mortgage fraud, protect intellectual property against theft by foreign parties, and promote cybersecurity. DOJ is also wants to increase the budget for federal prisons.

Official House Vote on Amendment 25

The full text of the amendment is as follows:


At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following:

SEC. ll. None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”


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