New Ads Target Members Of Congress Who Opposed Medical Marijuana Measure

Matt Ferner, Huffington Post

Medical marijuana advocates are turning up the heat on House lawmakers who last week voted against an amendment to block the Drug Enforcement Administration from cracking down on state-legal medical marijuana shops and patients.

The appropriations measure prohibiting the DEA from spending funds to arrest state-licensed medical marijuana patients and providers, which was sponsored by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Sam Farr (D-Calif.), still passed 219-189. But reform group Americans for Safe Access is targeting ads against some lawmakers who voted no, beginning with Reps. Andy Harris (R-Md.) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.).

"The reason for these two particular members of Congress has to do with their especially outspoken opposition to medical marijuana, despite its popular support in their districts," said Kris Hermes, spokesman for Americans for Safe Access. "Although the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment was passed with a solid majority, the influence of these two elected officials is significant, and their efforts to derail a measure supported by the vast majority of Americans is troubling and must be confronted."

The Harris and Wasserman Schultz spots (watch them below) will appear on MSNBC in Maryland and Florida over the next several days.

A total of 17 Democrats joined 172 Republicans in voting against the amendment.

Harris spoke on the House floor last week in opposition to the amendment. He insisted that there are no medical benefits to marijuana (despite much evidence to the contrary) and that medical marijuana laws are a step toward legalizing recreational pot.

"It's the camel's nose under the tent," said Harris. He cited an anti-marijuana report just published by the DEA that also claims medical marijuana is just "a means to an end" -- which is the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes. The taxpayer-funded report uses scare quotes around the word "medical."

Harris' state, Maryland, became the 21st to legalize marijuana for medical use in April, but he has continued his opposition.

So far, 22 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use. Three more states, including Wasserman Schultz's Florida, are considering it this year. Florida legislators passed the very limited Compassionate Cannabis Act of 2014 just last month, and state voters will decide on a more comprehensive medical marijuana ballot initiative in November.

Though Wasserman Schultz, who chairs the Democratic National Committee, was not the only member of her party to vote against the House amendment, she was the only member of the Democratic leadership to do so.

Meanwhile, nearly 90 percent of Florida voters support the legalization of marijuana for medical use, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.

Hermes, the Americans for Safe Access spokesman, told HuffPost that no ads against other members of Congress have been produced at this time, but that the group is working to place more in the lead-up to the November elections.

"Elected officials should definitely expect to see more ads appear over the coming weeks and months," Hermes said.

UPDATE: June 6 -- Michael Czin, national press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, addressed the Florida ballot initiative and DNC Chairman Wasserman Schultz's opposition to medical marijuana:

"She was speaking as a mom and a member of Congress on her personal concerns on a local issue," Czin said. "The DNC has not taken an official position on this ballot initiative. We leave it to the good people of Florida to make that decision."