Spending Bill That Blocks Marijuana Reform Also Blocks Federal Interference With Marijuana Reform


Office of Dana Rohrabacher

Here is a revealing snapshot of the conflicting impulses at work within the Republican Party: The same omnibus spending bill that blocks the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Washington, D.C., demands that the federal government refrain from interfering with the legalization of marijuana for medical use in Washington, D.C. Both riders were sponsored by House Republicans who are generally viewed as conservative.

The anti-legalization amendment, introduced by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), prohibits the District of Columbia from spending federal or local funds to "legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution" of marijuana or any other Schedule I drug. In June an earlier version of the Harris amendment, attached to another spending bill, passed the House Appropriations Committee by a mainly party-line vote, but it was omitted from the final legislation because of resistance from Senate Democrats.

The medical marijuana amendment, introduced by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), prohibits the Justice Department (which includes the Drug Enforcement Administration) from spending money to "prevent" D.C. or the states from "implementing…laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana." The Rohrabacher amendment passed the House last May with support from 219 members, including 49 Republicans. A Senate version, co-sponsored by Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), was introduced in June but never got a vote.

Explaining his motivation for opposing marijuana reform, Harris says he worries that legalizing adult use, or even reducing the penalties for it, "will result in higher drug use among teens." His position is conservative in the sense that he wants to retain the current policy of prohibition, which was imposed at the federal level 77 years ago. It is also conservative in the sense that it expresses animosity toward the countercultural values that cannabis continues to represent in the minds of many right-wing Republicans.

Rohrabacher's attitude toward marijuana reform can be described as conservative as well, since he prefers local control to congressional dictates. Last month he joined Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.'s congressional delegate, in urging his colleagues to respect the will of the voters who overwhelmingly approved marijuana legalization in the District on November 4. Rohrbacher argued that trying to block legalization in D.C. or in Alaska and Oregon, where voters also said no to marijuana prohibition last month, would flout "fundamental principles" that "Republicans have always talked about," including "individual liberties," "limited government," and "states' rights and the 10th Amendment."

Strictly speaking, "states' rights" do not apply to the District of Columbia, which was created by Congress and is subject to much more extensive federal control than the states are. As Harris notes, "D.C.'s not a state." But the arguments for federalism—in particular, the idea that political decisions should be made at the lowest feasible level to facilitate citizen influence, familiarity with local conditions, policy experimentation, and competition among jurisdictions—apply to D.C. as well as the states. Last year Rohrabacher introduced the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, which reflects his federalist approach to drug policy. It would lift the federal ban on marijuana in states that decide to legalize the drug for medical or recreational use. 

Paul, who like Rohrabacher believes drug policy should be handled mainly at the state and local levels, agrees that Congress should not interfere with the District's choices in this area. "I think there should be a certain amount of discretion for both states and territories and the District," he told reporters on Election Day. "I'm not for having the federal government get involved."

The two marijuana riders, in short, pit venerable conservative principles against blind hatred of a plant. Which agenda represents a more promising future for the Republican Party?


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  1. Rohrabacher’s attitude toward marijuana reform can be described as conservative as well, since he prefers local control to congressional dictates.

    SOFT ON CRIME IS WHAT I CALL IT. Let’s see if DC’s structural integrity can withstand this little GOP tug of war.

  2. Fuck Andy Harris sideways with a jagged two-by-four layered in rusty nails and shark teeth.

    …wait, I’m sorry, what were we talking about? I was miles away.

    1. You were on topic. Don’t worry about it. Though I would like to know how you propose layering a 2×4 in shark teeth. Where are you going to get so many shark teeth? Do you just carry them around with you or something?

      1. You can actually pick them up on the shores of parts of the Chespeake Bay here in MD. They are everywhere. Those are actually fossils also, from Megalodons, so they are hard as stone and some are quite large. Some of those will work just fine for the purpose.

      2. What say you? Shark teeth are a couple clicks from his 2×4.…..9980452196

  3. The anti-legalization amendment, introduced by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), prohibits the District of Columbia from spending federal or local funds to “legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution” of marijuana or any other Schedule I drug.

    The medical marijuana amendment, introduced by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), prohibits the Justice Department (which includes the Drug Enforcement Administration) from spending money to “prevent” D.C. or the states from “implementing…laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

    You mean…TEAM Stupid members actually vote their local interests and aren’t towing the Kochtopussy Lion?

    I am shocked. Seriously. This is my shocked face.

  4. Why do you have to engage in “spending federal or local funds” to legalize something? Does it cost money to not throw people in jail now?

    1. This is what I was wondering. Can anyone point to any costs associated with such a policy? It’s obviously a net cost cut, but I can’t even think of a single gross cost that would be associated with such policy.

      1. The asset forfeiture loss would have to be made up with federal and/or local taxes.

        Also having to re-train the enforcers to not arrest violators would have a cost.

        1. Massive training will be needed to train officers to not start shooting puppies anytime they smell pot, or see a tomato plant that might be pot if you are dumb enough to qualify for job as cop.

          1. There would still be plenty of reasons to shoot puppies. What with all the “designer” drugs out there anything could be contraband. Anything.

            1. And puppies are just annoying.

        2. I don’t think there would even be any asset forfeiture loss since I’m unaware of any assets (other than the weed and paraphanalia itself) that would be seized in a routine marijuana possession citation.

          1. weed and paraphanalia itself

            What do you think narco-cops do when off duty? You think they buy their own stuff?

            1. Oh I know that, I just didn’t think it was classified as an on the book expense.

          2. Yes, but what about all those fines to be collected and easy overtime that will be lost for cops? Not to mention easy money for aspiring DC lawyers that will now have nothing to do.

          3. If it’s in your car, they can confiscate it, likewise your house, and anything they think is “linked” to the crime.

            Fucking Civil Forfeiture.

      2. All the cops currently on narcotics duty have to be trained to do something useful, like strangling cigarette peddlers and shooting kids with pellet guns. It’s going to be a long, hard process, but with enough funding DC will get through it.

    2. The government has no concept of something that does not cost money. YOUR money.

    3. They have to spend local funds (staff salary hours) to amend the DC Code (of laws).

      The implications of this are really scary. You can pass a law but you can’t implement it, thus ignoring the will of the people as expressed by referendum which is the most direct form of democracy we have. This also in effect creates secret laws.

      1. You can pass a law but you can’t implement it

        The implications of this are scary for DC residents but I don’t think it affects state legalization.

      2. People should just volunteer their time to do the work as a big FY to Andy Harris. What a douchebag.

        1. Ask government employees to work off-the-clock? Hahahahahaha….That’s rich, Hyper, you slay me.

          And while it would be tempting to setup a kickstarter to fund this it would set a bad precedent – that you have to pay government extra to enforce laws it doesn’t like.

          Regardless of whether this only affects DC (Cyto), one of the fundamental functions is to publish the laws. We (humanity) nailed that shit back in the days of Hammurabi.

  5. “We’re sorry, we cannot spend any money on our legalization initiative. Of course, if you spend any money on *criminalization* we’ll get all up in your grill.”

  6. Remember all the scaremongering about Big Marijuana? Maybe Big Marijuana can give D.C. the money it needs to implement legalization.

    1. Ah, nothing like a good old sin tax to make money.

      If you think healthcare drugs cost a lot now, wait til it’s free they’re legal.

  7. So how does this effectively overturn legalization? There was an initiative and it passed by an overwhelming majority. So even if the mobsters in DC cannot write up a few thousand pages of rules and regulations for businesses to legally sell and collect taxes on cannabis, now does that stop it from being legal for anyone to possess the 2 ozs that was specified in the initiative, or from growing 6 plants?

    1. It’s just Harris having an impotent snit. The last gasps of the MJ Warriors.

    2. It prevents them from changing the DC Code since that costs money. See my extended frothy rant above.

      1. But so what? It can’t make them enforce a law that overwhelmingly they don’t want to remain in effect.

    3. Didn’t the DC thing just legalize possession, home growing and sharing with friends?

  8. The GOP really are the stupid party. Despite all of the help they got from the Dems in pulling this stunt, the GOP are getting all of the blame for it. Someone should have taken this dumbfuck out behind the woodshed, as there is absolutely nothing to gain from this for the GOP.

    1. For every Republican Congressman sixty years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1969, the cops are in position in the quad, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the batons are already loosened to break out on the heads of teh pot-smoking hippies and it’s all in the balance, it hasn’t happened yet, it hasn’t even begun yet…

      (apologies to William Faulkner)

      1. I should have said August 1968

      2. You are no William Faulkner, Eddie.

  9. If only Jesus had toked. Would’ve rid the religious rabble and their rabid reactions to the rip.

    1. There’s no evidence suggesting he didn’t toke.

    2. We don’t actually know anything either way about that. But you can be damn sure that if the bible had mentioned it that we’d have one faction of Christians who were total stoners and another faction who would claim that they were using allegorical language for something else.

      1. I love the “wine really means grape juice” people.

        I’m pretty sure that in the days before pasteurization and refrigeration, wine and grape juice were pretty much one and the same.

      2. Get Saved! Get Stoned, bro!

  10. OT from TrulyPuzzling: The latest trend in public servant fitness

    If You Thought Stop-And-Frisk Was Bad, You Should Know About Jump-Outs

    “I knew they were ‘police’ per se, but they weren’t moving, talking or behaving in any way like police usually do,” Hadieh said. “It was highly tactical and organized, very militarized.”

    The police never asked if they could search any of them, but “one by one they were searched and their pockets emptied,” Hadieh said. One of them, a 15-year-old, was in handcuffs before she even knew what had happened.

    She said she asked repeatedly why the police were there and was told only that it was a “drug call.” The details of that night are fuzzy for Hadieh, who says she has had trouble sleeping since. But one question stuck in her mind, when the female officer said to her: “Do you realize that you are guilty by association right now?”

      1. Very interesting, thanks for that, I had no idea that was going on. Not surprised though.

        1. Not surprising at all. But, apparently, not doing this is somehow more expensive for DC

          1. They will still have all the other drugs. It’s not as if legalizing pot will put an end to drug enforcement operations.

  11. Another OT from ThoroughlyPathetic: The Bank that says “Grooovy”…..dit-union/

    Big Banks Balk, So Colorado Has Created A Credit Union For The Marijuana Industry

    Nearly a year after Colorado’s first legal marijuana shops opened, the thriving industry’s biggest problem is deciding what to do with all of its cash. Now, the state banking commission believes it has found a way to free pot entrepreneurs from the regulatory haze between federal banking laws, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) policy, and the state’s right to experiment with legalization.

    The nation’s first bank for marijuana pushers, growers, and investors will open in January after Colorado’s banking regulators approved a charter for The Fourth Corner Credit Union.

  12. OT: Marvin Lewis apologizes for calling Johnny Manziel a midget.

    Cleveland strikes back, sending local TV personality and midget, 4’3″ tall ‘Lil John’ Rinaldi to Lewis presser. Sitting in the front row Rinaldi questions:

    “Based on the height difference on a player like Manziel [compared to Hoyer] how has your defensive approach changed for Sunday’s game?”

    Check the video down the page.

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