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Washington, D.C. -- In an unprecedented 219-189 floor vote late tonight, the House of Representatives approved the end of funding for Department of Justice (DOJ) enforcement in medical marijuana states. Advocates are hailing the vote as a major victory that signals a shift in the approach Congress is taking on this issue. The vote was on Amendment No. 25 to the Commerce, Justice & Science (CJS) appropriations bill. One hundred seventy Democrats and 49 Republicans voted in favor of the amendment.
"This Congressional vote is a huge victory for patients," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access. "No longer will we have to look over our shoulder and worry when the next raid or indictment will prevent us from safely and legally accessing our medicine," continued Sherer. "This is a game-changer that paves the way for much more policy change to come."
The Congressional vote tonight comes as news has widely circulated about an ongoing federal prosecution, aggressively targeting patients in Washington State who were growing a modest amount of medical marijuana for their own personal use. However, the prosecution of the Kettle Falls 5, as they've become known, is now thrown into question. The DOJ has been seeking 10-year mandatory minimum to life sentences for each defendant.
In addition to ending all pending federal medical marijuana-related criminal prosecutions, advocates argue that current DOJ litigation against dispensary operators and their landlords, like that being waged in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley, must end promptly. Tonight's vote could also have a positive impact on defendants currently serving mandatory minimum sentences of up to 10 years in prison.
The CJS appropriations amendment was co-sponsored by 6 Republicans and 6 Democrats, including Representatives Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Sam Farr (D-CA), Don Young (R-AK), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Paul Broun (R-GA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Steve Stockman (R-TX), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Justin Amash (R-MI), and Dina Titus (D-NV). The Senate is expected to take up a similar measure this summer.
CJS Amendment text: https://american-safe-access.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/2014_CJS_Amendment.pdf
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