A group of lawmakers gathered on Capitol Hill earlier this week to introduce several proposals aimed at castrating the war on marijuana. Much to their surprise, the majority of these amendments, including a few that would prevent the Drug Enforcement Administration from continuing to clobber the medical marijuana community, were met with open arms by the House of Representatives.
In addition to voting to shut down the DEA’s bulk data collection program, the House approved three other amendments, which would prohibit interference from the Justice Department in state-supported cannabis markets, protect state hemp programs and unleash the controls surrounding CBD oil. All of these measures will now be taken into consideration for the fiscal year 2016 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill.
A proposal aimed at preventing the DEA from using tax dollars to spy on American citizens was approved in a voice vote earlier this week. Representatives Jared Polis of Colorado, Morgan Griffith of Virginia, David Schweikert of Arizona, and Jerrold Nadler of New York are responsible for submitting this amendment.
Drug policy experts believe this level of budget cutting excellence will be become a trend, as long as the DEA continues to fight against the grain of the nation.
“Congress dealt a major blow to the DEA by ending their invasive and offensive bulk data collection programs and by cutting their budget,” Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement. “The more the DEA ignores commonsense drug policy, the more they will see their agency’s power and budget come under deeper scrutiny.”
On Wednesday, House members voted in support of pulling $23 million from the DEA’s marijuana crackdown budget and put the money towards common sense programs, like solving rape cases, financing body cameras for local police officers and assisting troubled youth. If this amendment is attached to the budget, rest assured, Uncle Sam’s dope henchmen will have substantially less money to spend on drunken sexual debauchery with South American prostitutes.
The House also voted to renew an amendment attached to last year’s budget that prevents the federal government from interfering in medical marijuana states. The proposal, which is sponsored by Representatives Dana Rohrabacher and Sam Farr of California, prevents the Department of Justice—and, in turn, the DEA—from bullying states that have legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes.
“Our founding fathers didn’t want criminal justice to be handled by the federal government,” Rohrabacher said during Wednesday’s debate. “This is absolutely absurd that the federal government is going to mandate all these things even though the people of the states and many doctors would like to have the right to prescribe to their patients what they think will alleviate their suffering. This is states’ rights issue. Our founding fathers didn’t want a police force that can bust down people’s doors. They wanted individual freedom.”
Unfortunately, while this amendment will likely go the distance, it will do very little to prevent the DEA from bringing the hammer down on state-approved medical marijuana businesses and the patients it serves. Both Farr and Rohrabacher are concerned that the amendment, much like last year, will do nothing to actually prevent the Justice Department from prosecuting the medical marijuana community.
Earlier this year, the two lawmakers fired a letter off to now retired Attorney General Eric Holder, which reiterated the purpose of the amendment. The letter stated that, “the purpose of our amendment was to prevent the Department from wasting its limited law enforcement resources on prosecutions and asset forfeiture actions against medical marijuana patients and providers, including businesses that operate legally under state law.”
Although they encouraged Holder to “bring your Department back into compliance with federal law by ceasing marijuana prosecutions and forfeiture actions against those acting in accordance with state medical marijuana laws,” that action remains to be seen.
In April, a spokesperson for the Justice Department told The Los Angeles Times that the amendment only hinders Uncle Sam from “impeding the ability of states to carry out their medical marijuana laws,” but it does not offer blanket protection for the medical marijuana industry or its patients.
Another amendment that gained House support is one submitted by Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, which would prevent the use of federal funds from interfering in states that have legalized the use of CBD oil. In addition, this amendment would also provide protection for states that legalized industrial hemp programs.
A fourth amendment that essentially mimicked the proposal submitted by Rohrabacher and Farr, but extended its reach to the recreational sector of the marijuana industry, was the only one shot down.
Marijuana activists and lawmakers alike are encouraged by the overwhelming support of the House. In an interview on C-SPAN, Representative Earl Blumenauer went so far as to suggest that the latest House vote indicates the war on marijuana will likely come to a screeching halt within the next five years.
Tom Angell, a spokesperson for the Marijuana Majority, believes the vote is a sign that Congress is fed up with the Drug Enforcement Administration and is merging on the side of nationwide marijuana reform.
“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,” Angell said. “That’s what a growing majority of Americans wants, and these votes show that lawmakers are on board as well. Congress clearly wants to stop the Justice Department from spending money to impose failed marijuana prohibition policies onto states, so there’s absolutely no reason those policies themselves should remain on the law books any longer.”