U.S. Senate to vote on defunding DOJ attacks on medical marijuana

Jake Ellison, Seattle Post Intelligencer

A top Republican and Democrat in the U.S. Senate have submitted an amendment to a budget bill that would restrict the Department of Justice (which prosecutes arrests made by the DEA) from using any funds to prevent states “from implementing” medical marijuana systems.

The exact same amendment (as you can see in the first slide in the above gallery) passed the U.S. House in a historic vote in May.

Here’s the proposed amendment by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) to the Senate’s  ”Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act”:

At the appropriate place in title II of division A, insert the following:

Sec. __. None of the funds made available under this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.

Exactly what the on-the-ground impact of the amendment — if it passes the Senate, the joint conference to rectify the House and Senate versions and then in the bill signed by President Obama — will be is not clear. That said, just the mere fact of the amendment passing the House and possibly the Senate sends a strong message to those agencies that the tide has shifted against funding the war on pot.

We first learned of the proposed amendment in Senate through a news release from the Marijuana Policy Project.

The Senate is now expected to vote — possibly as soon as tonight or Friday — on a measure that is intended to shield medical marijuana patients and providers from enforcement of federal laws in states where medical marijuana is legal. …

“Poll after poll shows 70-80% of Americans support medical marijuana. Even among conservatives, most oppose enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states where marijuana is legal for some purpose. Having two rising stars like Rand Paul and Cory Booker team up to introduce this amendment just shows how popular the issue has become, and that our outdated federal marijuana laws are inevitably going to change.”

We also heard from the Americans for Safe Access crew:

… budget amendment to curb Department of Justice (DOJ) enforcement in medical marijuana states that has resulted in numerous, costly federal prosecutions, such as the widely watched Kettle Falls 5 case. …

The bipartisan Senate medical marijuana measure, which would amend the Commerce, Science & Justice appropriations bill, comes as majority leader Harry Reid admitted that, “there’s some medical reasons for marijuana.” In an interview with the Las Vegas Sun, Reid who rarely takes on controversial issues said “We waste a lot of time and law enforcement going after these guys that are smoking marijuana.”

Reid was referring to the type of federal prosecutions found in the case of the Kettle Falls 5, family members who are legal patients from Washington State growing medical marijuana for their own personal use. Despite repeated claims by the Obama Administration that it is not targeting individual patients in compliance with state law, and that it is seeking mandatory minimum sentencing reform, the DOJ is aggressively prosecuting the Kettle Falls 5 and seeking a minimum of 10 years to life in prison for each of them. …

“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.” Support for medical marijuana has consistently polled at 80 percent and higher among Americans.