Historic Senate Pot Vote Imminent

David Downs, San Francisco Chronicle

Advocacy groups like the Drug Policy Alliance, Marijuana Policy Project, and Americans for Safe Access are urging citizens to contact their Senator today as a historic vote on de-funding the war on weed nears.

Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Cory Booker’s (D-NJ) proposed amendment to the Commerce, Science & Justice appropriations bill would block the Department of Justice from spending money raiding lawful medical marijuana providers in states that it is legal. The idea passed the House 219-189 in May, in a surprise example of bipartisanship, but it faces much tougher odds in the Senate.

Democratic Senators like Diane Feinstein remain opposed to ending the federal war on medical pot, her office said. She said the amendment would interfere with the police’s ability to shut down “rogue” clubs. Advocacy groups call that argument factually incorrect.

The National Cannabis Industry Association notes: “The amendment does not legalize marijuana but simply prevents tax dollars from being spent undermining state medical marijuana laws.
 The Amendment does not prevent enforcement from combating marijuana-related activity that is not in compliance with state laws.”

About 23 states have medical marijuana laws, yet thousands of Americans sit in prison for activity their state deems legal. Under federal law, marijuana is classified as more dangerous than heroin.

Recently, Drug Enforcement Administration agents began threatening doctors who served as advisors on the boards of medical cannabis dispensaries in Massachusetts. About 82 percent of the U.S. supports medical marijuana, a 2014 poll shows.

“The Senate has a rare and unprecedented opportunity to listen to and act on the overwhelming popular support for medical marijuana across the country,” said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer about the upcoming floor vote. “It’s about time we took a level-headed approach to this issue and, at minimum, end the unnecessary and harmful federal enforcement that is pushing patients into federal prison.”