Medical Marijuana

Senate Appropriations Committee Approves Ban on Federal Meddling With Medical Marijuana Laws

Eight Republicans and 13 Democrats voted for the rider, which passed the House last week.

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Yesterday the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a spending restriction aimed at preventing federal prosecutors and drug agents from interfering with medical marijuana laws. The rider, which was included in the omnibus spending bill that Congress approved in December, will expire at the end of the current fiscal year unless it is renewed. Last week the House of Representatives reapproved it by a vote of 242 to 186, a bigger margin than last year. Yesterday's Senate committee vote was 21 to 9, with eight Republicans joining 13 Democrats in support of medical marijuana federalism.

This is the first Senate vote on the medical marijuana amendment, since last year it was added to the appropriations bill in conference after winning approval in the House. The Republicans voting for the rider, which was introduced by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), were Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Roy Blunt (Mo.), Shelley Capito (W.V.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Susan Collins (Maine), Steve Daines (Mon.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska). The only Democrat voting against it was Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), a hardline drug warrior who parts company with her fellow California senator, Barbara Boxer, on this issue.

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

As I noted last week, the practical impact of this rider is unclear. Much depends on what it means to "prevent" states from "implementing" their medical marijuana laws, which is what the amendment forbids. The Justice Department maintains that prosecuting patients and providers, even when they strive to comply with state law, does not necessarily violate the rider. Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Sam Farr (D-Calif.), who sponsored the amendment in the House, strongly disagree. The CARERS Act, introduced in March by Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), would go further than the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, making the federal ban on marijuana inapplicable to people who comply with state laws allowing medical use of marijuana.

Whatever restraint the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment imposes on the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration (a division of the department), it is interesting to see which Republicans are still letting their anti-pot prejudices defeat their avowed fealty to federalism. On the Senate Appropriations Committee they are John Boozman (Ark.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Hoeven (N.D.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), James Lankford (Okla.), Mitch McConnell (Ky.), and Richard Shelby (Ala.).

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  1. Ahh.. but the trick is to get the DEA/DOJ to actually abide by it… but that’s another story..

    1. It’s not like they can’t find something else to go after them on.

    2. They should all be processed into pulp.

      1. Ermm.. Pulp fiction, that is…

  2. Mythical President Chris Christie hardest hit.

    1. I’m sure Mythical President Lindsey Graham will man the crisis hotline, to console Christie over this..

      1. Don’t worry. After a little flensing, Chris Christie will be (somewhat) acceptable to a large proportion of the (idiotic) American voting public.

      2. Amazingly, Lindsey Graham afterwards said that he switched his mind and wanted to change his vote to be in favor of states’ rights on medical pot.

  3. Is there any area where Diane Feinstein is not a monster?

    It’s starting to seem to me that marijuana legalization has passed a tipping point. I actually believe that full legalization is on the short-term horizon. The drug warriors are getting increasingly shrill and I don’t think people are buying their shit anymore.

    Recently, I had a discussion with a group of typical Texas conservative friends (including a cop) about drugs, and initially they took the rote, learned response that all drugs should be banned. However, after a bit of discussion, they all basically agreed that banning marijuana is pointless. I couldn’t get them to go all the way and agree that the whole drug war is an immoral mess. It felt pretty good to have that conversation. It was different that others I’ve had in the past.

    * I do not own a wood chipper.

    1. You should.

  4. I love that the sentence in the screencap is in scare quotes. He might as well include “We’re committed to reducing the size of government” in the same ad.

  5. So any federal official who prosecutes people who are in compliance with state medical marijuana laws is violating the rider, and looting the Treasury. Sounds like a worse crime than using teh weed.

  6. I’m am a little more than surprised that Alexander did this, since he hasn’t lived up to most of his stated ideals in a long time.

  7. Rand Paul on Kennedy’s Show yesterday:

    “I think there’s a lot of people out there who aren’t represented by the old moss-covered GOP,” he said. “I think the new GOP does have a foundation outside of the Beltway. Even on foreign policy, if you poll the issue ? should we be more involved in the Middle East or less involved. Less involved polls 40-45 percent, maybe 50 percent in most of the early primaries.”

    What is his position on this shitty trade bill?

    1. I thought he was for knowing what’s in it before voting on it.

    2. You know what we do with the moss-covered stuff?

      Yeah – put it through the wood chipper. Cause that’s all it’s good for.

      So – the Feds need to investigate Paul for REAL THREATS.

  8. It’s like the Constitution has been put through – I don’t know – a wood chipper or something.

    It really grinds me. My nerves are beaten to a pulp.

    I suppose it’s all mulch ado about nothing.

    1. Why wood you say such things? You’re all bark and no bite.

  9. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

    Jacob, did you see that Lindsey Graham announced afterwards that he wanted to switch his vote to be in favor, but was too late? It at least makes him better than Feinstein.

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