Senate committee votes to call off war on medical marijuana

By David Downs San Francisco Gate/Smell the Truth

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday approved a measure to effectively call off the federal war on medical cannabis, by defunding Department of Justice efforts to harass patients, caregivers, and businesses that are complying with state medical marijuana laws.

South Carolina Republican Lindsay Graham proved more progressive on the issue — which 85 percent of Americans support — than California Sen. Diane Feinstein, with Sen. Graham joining the majority 22-8 vote and Sen. Feinstein voting ‘nay’. The amendment to the Department of Justice’s budget comes from Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and mirrors an amendment approved last week in the House of Representatives.

“Passage of identical amendments in the House and Senate typically indicates it will be included in the final spending bill Congress sends to President Obama,” states the Marijuana Policy Project, in a release.

Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project stated: “This is another resounding victory for medical marijuana patients, their families, and their care providers. Congress is making it clear that the Department of Justice and the DEA have no business interfering in state medical marijuana laws.”

The measure would only protect medical cannabis laws for another year. Activists hope to pass the CARERS Act to end federal medical cannabis prohibition permanently.

“The success of the Mikulski medical cannabis amendment shows a growing acknowledgement that the federal government should not interfere with state medical cannabis programs,” stated Steph Sherer Americans for Safe Access Executive Director, in a release. “The passage of the Mikulski medical cannabis amendment also shows that Senate support exists for the central elements of the CARERS Act. The CARERS Act would make the protections in Mikulski medical cannabis amendment permanent and create a much needed framework for research and federal and state cooperation.”

The same Senate committe recently voted to allow VA doctors to recommend medical cannabis in states where it was legal.

“Today the Senate is joining the House of Representatives and recognizing the only responsible course  of action is for the federal government to leave state medical cannabis programs alone and let them provide their citizens with this much needed medical option,” stated Mike Liszewski Americans for Safe Access Government Affairs Director, in a release. “Along the recent vote to end the gag order on VA doctors recommending medical cannabis we’re seeing undeniable Senate support for the policy changes in the CARERS act.”

The nation’s first drug czar, Bill Bennet, decried such efforts in the Los Angeles Times today, saying: “the dangers have gone up and the stigma has gone down. And many in the Republican Party are aiding and abetting in this social collapse.”