May 10, 2012
Nearly Three-Quarters of Democrats Break with Administration Policy, Vote to Prevent Federal Agencies from Targeting Individuals in Compliance with State Medical Marijuana Laws
Democrats in the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to approve an amendment to the FY 2013 Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations bill late Tuesday that would effectively end the ability of federal agencies to enforce federal marijuana laws against individuals who are in compliance with state medical marijuana laws. The amendment stated that federal agencies may not use any funds to target individuals in states with medical marijuana laws, as long as those people are following the laws of their respective states. This amendment, which was debated five times last decade, was reintroduced after an increase in federal actions against state-legal medical marijuana providers throughout the country over the last year.
The amendment was supported by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California), Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-New York), Rep. Sam Farr (D-California), and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-California). It was defeated in the House by a vote of 163-262 at the close of voting. Of those in favor, 134 were Democrats and 28 were Republicans, with 72% of Democrats backing the measure. The strong support among Democrats is notable in light of recent criticism of the Obama administration’s crackdown on medical marijuana providers despite campaign promises that he would not use federal resources to undermine state medical marijuana laws.
“It is encouraging to see so many members sending a clear message to the Obama administration,” said Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project. “These 163 members are tired of seeing federal resources dedicated to undermining state medical marijuana laws. They understand, especially members from medical marijuana states, that when the Obama administration forces the closure of medical marijuana dispensaries, they are driving patients back to the streets to acquire their medicine. States are doing the right thing by ensuring that patients have safe access to medical marijuana. It is only a matter of time before every member of Congress accepts this truth.”
Currently, 16 states and the District of Columbia allow seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana with a recommendation from their doctor. Connecticut is poised to become the 17th state to pass a medical marijuana law. Another ten states are considering bills to make marijuana legal at this time.
The amendment performed about as well this time around as it did the last time it was considered in 2007. While that may not seem like progress, it is actually quite a step forward. In the most recent vote, we saw an increase in the percentage of both Democrats and Republicans that supported this policy change. The reason that the overall support for the amendment remained relatively unchanged is that support among Republicans is still fairly low, and many more of them are now in office than in 2007.