Marijuana

House Resoundingly Approves Broad Marijuana Federalism

A solid majority of congressmen, including 41 Republicans, voted for a spending rider that bars the Justice Department from interfering with the legalization of cannabis for medical or recreational use.

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Last Thursday the House of Representatives resoundingly approved a spending rider that would bar the Justice Department from interfering with the implementation of state laws allowing the production, distribution, and consumption of marijuana for medical or recreational use. The amendment, a broader version of a rider that has protected state medical marijuana programs since 2014, was supported by 62 percent of the legislators who voted, including 41 Republicans as well as 226 Democrats.

"This is without a doubt the biggest victory for federal cannabis policy reform to date, and a hopeful sign that the harmful policies of marijuana prohibition will soon be a relic of the past," Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said in a press release. "Interfering with successful, regulated cannabis programs is a tremendous waste of resources, and only serves to push the market back into the hands of criminals. The amendment approved today reflects a growing realization of these facts by lawmakers."

Amendment No. 17 to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2020, introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), says "none of the funds made available by this Act to the Department of Justice may be used" to "prevent" states from "implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana." It applies to the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands as well as the 47 states that have legalized some form of cannabis for medical or recreational use.

"I strongly urge that we build on the legacy that we have had in the past and that we move this forward to allow the federal government to start catching up with where the rest of the states are," Blumenauer said upon introducing the amendment. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) spoke in favor of the amendment, saying, "The District has insisted that Congress cease interfering with our desire to commercialize adult-use marijuana, and I appreciate that D.C. is included with the other States that have the same goal."

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) spoke against the rider. "Under the Controlled Substances Act," he noted, "the Drug Enforcement Administration defines Schedule I drugs as having no current acceptable medical use and a high potential for abuse. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there is no scientifically recognized medical benefit from smoking or eating marijuana plants. Claims of benefits from smoked or ingested marijuana are anecdotal and generally outright fabrications. It is established by fact that such marijuana use has real health and real social harms."

Rebutting Aderholt, Blumenauer argued that marijuana's Schedule I status cannot be rationally justified. "If we were rescheduling drugs today, cannabis probably wouldn't be scheduled at all," he said. "It is widely known now that there are, in fact, medicinal purposes to be obtained from using cannabis. That is why the voters in the gentleman's own state just approved medical marijuana. They are not goofy. They are not misled. They understand that there is compelling evidence, and any of us meeting with professionals can understand that. One of the reasons we don't have the research is because the federal government has interfered with [it]. But the evidence is clear. You can find that out with children in your state who use medical cannabis to stop extreme seizure disorders; people who use cannabis to be able to stop the violent nausea associated with chemotherapy; or veterans that use it for PTSD, traumatic brain injury, or chronic pain."

The 41 Republicans who sided with Blumenauer rather than Aderholt included freshman congressmen such as Kelly Armstrong (N.D.), Troy Balderson (Ohio), and Russ Fulcher (Idaho) as well as longtime marijuana reformers such as Justin Amash (Mich.), Thomas Massie (Ky.), Tom McClintock (Calif.), and Don Young (Alaska). They represent one-fifth of the Republicans who cast a vote.

We don't know yet whether Blumenauer's amendment will be part of the final appropriations bill approved by both houses of Congress. And unlike changes to the Controlled Substances Act, spending riders aimed at protecting state autonomy with respect to marijuana policy have to be renewed each year.

Last week's vote is nevertheless an important development, since it is the first time the House of Representatives has approved a broad form of marijuana federalism that encompasses general legalization as well as medical use. "Today's vote is the most significant step Congress has ever taken toward ending federal marijuana prohibition," said Steven Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "Congress is recognizing that the federal government must let the states decide on cannabis legalization—and not the other way around."

NEXT: The Kagan-Gorsuch Axis and Kavanaugh v. Gorsuch - Chapter III

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45 responses to “House Resoundingly Approves Broad Marijuana Federalism

  1. At least we can all agree on this one (I hope)

    1. Yes, let’s thank the Congress for cutting the crust off the turd sandwich that is the drug war.

      1. I won’t thank Congress for anything

    2. this seems a great decision indeed. It will take some time to reflect this.

  2. I see the loophole. It only bars the feds from spending money to interfere with states implementing medical or recreational marijuana. It does nothing to prevent the feds from persecuting people who do not abide by state laws, as determined by the fed drug warriors.

    Some guy has one plant too many, or misspelt his street address on his permit application. Boom!

  3. Drug prohibition can’t be rationally justified period.

    1. Its also unconstitutional.

      The Controlled Substances Act is illegal as there is no enumerated power for Congress to ban products or services (drugs). Even the Prohibtionists knew this and pushed the 18th Amendment to ban alcohol.

    2. But Alderholt is the new Harry Anslinger. Besides, prohibitionist expert witnesses INVENTED pseudoscience (cocaine negroes, assassin of youth, reefer madness). Rationality has nothing to do with fearmongering for fascism.

      1. Rationality has nothing to do with your posts here either.

  4. I’m left to wonder why ethanol has never been added to schedule I. I mean, it has a high potential for abuse and not much current acceptable medical use. Has anyone ever had a doctor prescribe ethanol?

    1. People are certainly prescribed things that contain ethanol. I think it’s fair to say it has accepted medical uses, if not as a primary active ingredient.
      According to family lore, my t-total great grandfather was advised by his doctor to take some brandy before bed. So he kept a little bottle in the medicine cabinet and took it like a prescribed medication.

      1. Ah, good point. I guess it serves as a solvent and preservative in cough medicines along with causing a certain drowsiness. Still has a high potential for abuse, so it should be schedule II.

        1. If it wasn’t so central to our culture, it probably would be.

      2. Drinking 1-3 drinks a day is actually better for you than not drinking. It is mostly good for your heart because it thins the blood a bit or something. Incidentally the upper end of that range overlaps with being a mild maintenance alcoholic. Redwine also has other benefits, but any type of booze is good for your heart.

    2. Because it has a constitutional amendment.

      1. Well, the 21st un-illegalized it (a word I just made up), but said the states could still do what they wanted. Considering congress doesn’t much care about the Constitution one way or the other, I think they could easily justify tossing it into the drug schedule.
        So, between prohibition and the growing marijuana movement, we have two huge examples of Mr. Kirkland’s “betters” telling the people they can’t do something, until the people tell the government to bugger off. Isn’t that sorta backwards?

        1. The correct word is ‘de-illegalified’. Which I just made up, but is now the standard.

      2. 21st Amendment:
        Section 2.
        The transportation or importation into any state, territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

        Technically, the 21A only makes importing intoxicating liquors INTO a state for delivery or use a prohibited action.

        INTRASTATE liquor possession is perfectly legal unless a state has a constitutional provision giving the state power to ban products or services. None do that I know of.

        1. Unfortunately, bans on products or services are considered part of the “general police power” that the states (but not the federal government) are said to retain. There would need to be provision in a state constitution denying it such power for it not to have it. You can say that a “free” state should have such a provision, but (to use a familiar closing line) none do that I know of.

    3. Ethanol per se is not exempt, but distilled spirits are statutorily exempted from the schedules.

      1. Huh, learn something every day. Title 21 dismisses alcoholic beverages and tobacco because…reasons. Thanks for pointing that out.

        1. Simply goes to prove the point that sometimes winning on practical grounds, or no reason at all, vs trying to win on the broad principle can often be worth it.

    4. Under the Volstead Act implementing the 18th Amendment doctors wrote medical prescriptions for spirituous liquor kept in bonded warehouses. Unfortunately, even that generous loophole did not keep asset forfeiture of bank and brokerage accounts, libel seizure of ships and vehicles, chain gang penalties and fines worth 30 lbs of gold from eliminating the basis for fractional reserve currency and crashing the economy into the Great Depression.

  5. If the feds cannot enforce the law against states, then why is cannabis still on the schedule? Why are states more worthy of protection against federal law than ordinary citizens?

    1. Cannabis is still Schedule 1 because FYTW. It’s totally ridiculous and contrary to the law at this point.
      I think in effect this law protects individuals and businesses more than states. I guess the states that manage growing and sales themselves could potentially be charged somehow (not sure how that would work, though), but I don’t hear of any attempts to do so.

    2. Because nobody wants to amend statures any more, let alone constitutional provisions. From here on out it’s all going to be temporary legislative directives and judicial restraining orders regarding enforcement and administration.

  6. What a joke. Why can’t they just de-schedule it?

    1. If Congress de-schedules weed, then anyone can grow it or bring it in from overseas, thereby avoiding the new massive tax scheme.

    2. They are pretty clearly violating the law at this point by not at least re-scheduling it.

  7. […] The House of Representatives just passed a rider preventing the Justice Department from interfering with the implementation of state laws allowing the production, distribution, and consumption of marijuana for medical or recreational use. Read more: House Resoundingly Approves Broad Marijuana Federalism […]

  8. “According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there is no scientifically recognized medical benefit from smoking or eating marijuana plants.”

    FFS if ever there was a case to be made for settled science or scientific consensus, this should be it.

    But for a much more complicated subject, like man made global warming where contradictions abound, it can be said to be settled science.

    Asking the National Institute for Drug Abuse about re-scheduling marijuana is like asking Smokey the Bear for a box of matches.

    So are the doctors prescribing weed engaged in quackery or just taking advantage of a placebo effect?

    1. Of course NIDA says that. It’s their job to produce propaganda to support drug prohibition and not to tell the truth.

  9. Fun that “small govt” Republicans don’t back up their talk. At least this is a step in the right direction though it should be scheduled at least 2 or 3.

  10. Libertarian spoiler votes plus the coincidental pairing of dope and beer icehouse prohibition and the Panic of 1907, the banning of beer & booze crashing the economy in 1920, then again in 1929, then of plant leaves in 1987-1992, and again of plant leaves in 2008 eventually produce a pattern such that even the stupidest voter perceives by induction that Republican fanatical prohibition-by-looting and murder destroys the forking economy. Something had to be done, especially after the LP got 328% more votes in 2016!

  11. As is customary, America progress is forged mostly by Democrats with a lesser but worthy number of Republican allies.

    The ‘small government’ right-wingers strutted about in their hypocrite suits again, muttering something about Jesus hating doobies.

    Clingers

    1. Arty, I just bet you’re a stitch when you’re baked.

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  13. […] (From Reason)Last Thursday the House of Representatives resoundingly approved a spending rider that would bar the Justice Department from interfering with the implementation of state laws allowing the production, distribution, and consumption of marijuana for medical or recreational use. The amendment, a broader version of a rider that has protected state medical marijuana programs since 2014, was supported by 62 percent of the legislators who voted, including 41 Republicans as well as 226 Democrats.Click here for the article. […]

  14. That’s cool.

    Honestly, I don’t get why Trump doesn’t push to reschedule. I think it would be a wildly popular move, would show he’s not that bad to a lot of low information voters, and could save a ton of money. He clearly doesn’t personally give a fuck, and with his populist leanings it seems like a shoe in… I do wish he was smarter sometimes :/

  15. […] Last Thursday, the House voted to approve Amendment No. 17 to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2020, an annual funding bill for the Department of Justice and other federal agencies. The amendment, introduced by cannabis champion Rep. Earl Blumenauer, states that “none of the funds made available by this Act to the Department of Justice may be used [to] prevent states from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana,” Reason reports. […]

  16. […] Last Thursday, the House voted to approve Amendment No. 17 to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2020, an annual funding bill for the Department of Justice and other federal agencies. The amendment, introduced by cannabis champion Rep. Earl Blumenauer, states that “none of the funds made available by this Act to the Department of Justice may be used [to] prevent states from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana,” Reason reports. […]

  17. […] Last Thursday, the House voted to approve Amendment No. 17 to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2020, an annual funding bill for the Department of Justice and other federal agencies. The amendment, introduced by cannabis champion Rep. Earl Blumenauer, states that “none of the funds made available by this Act to the Department of Justice may be used [to] prevent states from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana,” Reason reports. […]

  18. […] Last Thursday, the House voted to approve Amendment No. 17 to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2020, an annual funding bill for the Department of Justice and other federal agencies. The amendment, introduced by cannabis champion Rep. Earl Blumenauer, states that “none of the funds made available by this Act to the Department of Justice may be used [to] prevent states from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana,” Reason reports. […]

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