U.S. House approves amendment blocking feds from interfering with medical pot laws

Noelle Crombie, The Oregonian

The U.S. House of Representatives early Friday voted for an amendment that blocks the U.S. Department of Justice from meddling in states' medical marijuana laws.

The Associated Press reports that the vote, 219-189, was "somewhat surprising" for the GOP-controlled House. The wire service reports that the vote came as the House considered the budget for the Justice Department. It now heads to the Democratic Senate.

The amendment was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., and 11 others, including U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., an outspoken proponent of reforming federal marijuana policy.

In a piece published on the The National Review website this week, Rohrabacher writes that the federal government should acknowledge the growing public support for medical marijuana.

More than half the states allow people with serious illnesses to use marijuana and its derivatives. The vast majority of Americans — about 85 percent, according to recent polls — support this policy. What's driving this surge is the realization by patients, researchers, and physicians that such treatment may offer enormous relief for numerous patients. I would lay this positive research against the more alarmist findings any day. It is cruel for political Washington to ignore humane sentiment for most Americans.

Opponents of Rohrabacher's amendment say states aren't doing enough to regulate medical marijuana.

AP reports:

Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., cited a recent Drug Enforcement Administration study that said that many in the medical marijuana movement are using it as "a means to an end," meaning legalization for recreational use.

But medical marijuana advocates hailed the vote as victory.

Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, a national group that advocates for medical marijuana patients, called the vote a "game changer."

"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," Sherer said in an email to media outlets, including The Oregonian.

Sherer's organization has highlighted what it considers the aggressive prosecution of a group of medical marijuana growers in Washington. The Kettle Falls, Wash., residents say their activities, though illegal under federal law, were legal under Washington law.