The US House of Representatives has approved a spending bill for the federal Department of Justice which contains no fewer than four amendments de-funding the War on Drugs in key ways, while narrowly defeating a fifth de-funding measure which would have forced federal law enforcement to respect the will of voters in all legalizing states.
The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which passed at the 11th hour of last year’s Congress and was set to expire this September, is among the victorious amendments today. The amendment, which prevents any funds from going to the DOJ to prevent states from implementing medical cannabis laws, prompted many commentators to erroneously claim that raids and prosecutions would cease in medical marijuana states. Instead, as this blog correctly predicted, federal prosecutions have continued in states like Washington and California. Nevertheless the amendment, which provides some protection for state governments charged by their voters with implementing medical cannabis programs, represents an important victory for patient advocates. It passed by a vote of 242-186.
Three other key de-funding measures also passed: an amendment, offered by Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Thomas Massie (R-KY), ending federal interference with states implementing programs to legalize industrial hemp (a measure which was proven sadly necessary after the DEA attempted to seize 250 pounds of industrial hemp seed bound for Kentucky farmers last May), an amendment sponsored by Scott Perry (R-PA) de-funding DOJ moves against states like Texas which have passed protections for patients who use cannabis oil high in cannabidiol (CBD), and an amalgamated de-funding amendment brought by Ted Liew (D-CA), Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Joaquin Castro (D-TX), which diverts about $23 million from the DEA to easing the backlog of untested rape kits, supporting victims of child abuse, body cameras for police and reducing the federal deficit. While the last measure is largely a symbolic slashing of the otherwise gargantuan $2 billion the DEA still
misappropriates annually, it is still an important indicator of the mood of Congress, which has recently shifted to demand greater oversight over the scandal-ridden agency in the wake of former Administrator Michele Leonhart’s firingretirement.
The only de-funding amendment not adopted against the drug war, a broader amendment which would have also protected states which legalized all adult uses of cannabis and sponsored by Todd McClintock (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Don Young (R-AK), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), narrowly failed by a vote of 206-222. But every other drug war de-funding measure in the bill passed, making today the most significant victory against the drug war that Congress has ever given medical marijuana patients.
Now all eyes are on the Senate, which is considering its own bill, CARERS, which would endorse many of the same principles as today’s funding bill but go further by rescheduling cannabis and removing significant prohibitions against cannabis oil high in CBD.