MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

House Rules Committee Blocks Amendment Protecting Medical Marijuana

The rider could still be renewed if a conference committee decides to put it in the final bill.

C-SPANC-SPANYesterday the House Rules Committee blocked a floor vote on an amendment barring the Justice Department from interfering with state laws allowing medical use of marijuana. The amendment, which was first enacted in 2014 and has been renewed twice since then, could still be included in the final spending bill, since it has been approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee. Any differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill will be worked out by a bicameral conference committee.

"By blocking our amendment, Committee leadership is putting at risk the millions of patients who rely on medical marijuana for treatment, as well as the clinics and businesses that support them," said the amendment's current sponsors, Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.). "This decision goes against the will of the American people, who overwhelmingly oppose federal interference with state marijuana laws. These critical protections are supported by a majority of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle. There's no question: If a vote were allowed, our amendment would pass on the House floor, as it has several times before."

Attorney General Jeff Sessions urged Congress to block the Rohrabacher-Bluemnauer amendment last May, arguing that "it would be unwise to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime." Exactly what medical marijuana had to do with any of that was unclear, but the Justice Department generally opposes limits on its prosecutorial discretion, and Sessions' anti-pot prejudices are well-known.

In a Washington Post op-ed piece this week, Rohrabacher rebutted Sessions' clumsy attempt to blame medical marijuana for recent increases in opioid use and opioid-related deaths. To the contrary, he said, marijuana is a safer alternative to opioids. "The drug-war apparatus will not give ground without a fight," he wrote, "even if it deprives Americans of medical alternatives and inadvertently creates more dependency on opioids. When its existence depends on asset seizures and other affronts to our Constitution, why should anti-medical-marijuana forces care if they've contributed inadvertently to a vast market, both legal and illegal, for opioids?"

Unlike Sessions, Donald Trump has repeatedly said he supports medical marijuana and thinks states should be free to allow it. So even if the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment is not renewed for the next fiscal year, it is not clear that Sessions will try to shut down state-licensed medical marijuana suppliers. The amendment does not cover state-legal marijuana merchants serving the recreational market, who nevertheless have escaped prosecution so far, even though they are openly committing federal felonies every day.

A cannabis crackdown would not be popular. In the most recent Quinnipiac University poll, 61 percent of registered voters said marijuana should be legal for recreational use, while a whopping 94 percent said medical use should be allowed. Seventy-five percent opposed enforcement of the federal ban in states that have legalized marijuana for either purpose.

"When an overwhelming majority of Americans oppose federal interference in state medical marijuana programs, it is unconscionable not to let their representatives vote on whether to continue this policy," said Don Murphy, director of conservative outreach at the Marijuana Policy Project. "Unless Congress chooses the Senate budget version, millions of seriously ill patients and the legitimate businesses that provide them with safe access to their medicine will be at risk of prosecution. This vote is a slap in the face of patients, their families, their elected representatives, and the 10th Amendment."

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Philadelphia Collins||

    That reminds me, getting baked and watching football tonight.

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    And yet you want those who signed up for the DACA thrown out of the country?

    Be consistent, you law-breaking criminal scumbag.

  • paranoid android||

    A cannabis crackdown would not be popular. In the most recent Quinnipiac University poll, 61 percent of registered voters said marijuana should be legal for recreational use, while a whopping 94 percent said medical use should be allowed. Seventy-five percent opposed enforcement of the federal ban in states that have legalized marijuana for either purpose.

    Unfortunately, the True Libertarians have informed me that The Law Is The Law, and if these rulebreakers aren't given the harshest possible punishment the complete breakdown of society will swiftly follow.

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    Unfortunately? What the frick, dumbass? The Law is all that matters, fella, and if your precious, little congressman can't change the law, then don't break the law. It's simple, stupid.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Are you bitching because of no open borders? Yeah, that's the same.

  • Sports Reporter Charles Manson||

    Rohrabacher is a conservative who apparently believes (at least in this instance) in backing his constituents and protecting the medical MJ they voted for.

  • sarcasmic||

    The purpose of committees is to save congresscritters from having to actually vote on something when their constituents want them to vote one way and the party wants them to vote another.

  • Sports Reporter Charles Manson||

    "The law is the law."

    "OMG Congress don't change the law I don't like it when you do that!"

    /Sessions

  • Billy Bones||

    Just because I haven't yet had an opportunity to say this week; Fuck Jeff Sessions and that drug warrior dinosaur he rode in on!!!

  • Elias Fakaname||

    His first priority needs to be putting democrats in prison. Period.

  • David Friedman||

    I'm not sure how many readers realize that Dana Rohrabacher was a libertarian activist and song writer when he was much younger. My book _The Machinery of Freedom_, first published more than forty years ago, quotes a verse from one of his songs:

    Why can't you see?
    We just want to be free
    To have our homes and families
    And live our lives as we please.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online