Medical cannabis laws, strongly supported by a vast majority of Americans, have spread across the nation with 22 states plus Washington, D.C., enacting some type of program to protect patients' ability to utilize a nontoxic medicine recommended by their doctor. Fox News commissioned a poll just over a year ago showing 85% support nationwide for medical marijuana. More recently, a Quinnipiac University poll demonstrated that a whopping 88% of Florida voters support medical cannabis, including 84% of voters over the age of 65, historically an age group not in support of cannabis law reform. Strong support for medical cannabis is even global as the New England Journal of Medicine polled 1,446 readers from 72 countries and found 76% support, even though most of the countries prohibited any type of cannabis use.
Despite the strong support across the nation and exemption from state prosecution, medical cannabis patients, growers, and retailers still have to live in fear of SWAT raids and prison time due to federal law. For years, cannabis law reform activists and congressional allies have worked to pass a sensible, conservative amendment barring federal funds from being utilized to enforce federal marijuana law when residents are complying with their state's medical cannabis law. The amendment had garnered quite a bit of support over the years, but could never get over the hump in the U.S. House of Representatives, until this year.
From The Huffington Post:
Reflecting growing national acceptance of cannabis, a bipartisan coalition of House members voted early Friday to restrict the Drug Enforcement Administration from using funds to go after medical marijuana operations that are legal under state laws.
An appropriations amendment offered by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) prohibiting the DEA from spending funds to arrest state-licensed medical marijuana patients and providers passed 219-189. The Senate will likely consider its own appropriations bill for the DEA, and the House amendment would have to survive a joint conference before it could go into effect.
Rohrabacher said on the House floor that the amendment "should be a no-brainer" for conservatives who support states' rights and argued passionately against allowing the federal government to interfere with a doctor-patient relationship.
This bipartisan bill has long been championed by Rep. Rohrabacher was co-sponsored by fellow Republicans Donald Young, Tom McClintock, Paul Broun, Steve Stockman and Justin Amash as well as Democrats Earl Blumenauer (who will be one of the featured speakers at our International Cannabis Business Conference in September), Steve Cohen, Jared Polis, Barbara Lee and Dina Titus. While many long-time advocates were hopeful the amendment would pass soon, possibly this year, the margin of victory was certainly surprising and hopefully sends a strong signal that cannabis law reform is a serious, mainstream issue that can cut across party lines.
More from The Huffington Post:
"The president famously said that he had bigger fish to fry, but there are 93 U.S. attorneys and the DEA, and some of them are frying those smaller fish," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.). "There continues to be uncertainty. There are now many small businesses who are perfectly legal in these jurisdictions that are operating under a cloud. There have been lives that have been disrupted. This is not something that is theoretical."
Blumenauer especially hoped the message would get through to DEA chief Michele Leonhart, who has repeatedly made dubious statements about the dangers posed by marijuana and reportedly even said that the day a hemp flag flew over the U.S. Capitol was the worst day in her 33-year career at the DEA.
"The hemp flag flying over the Capitol was the lowest point in this person's career? Give. Me. A break!" Blumenauer said. "Maybe this will be a signal to the administration that they can't sort of tap dance around this, that they need to get their signals aligned and hopefully they're aligned with what the House did and where America is going."
Representative Blumenauer recently sent the following message to his constituents and supporters:
I wanted to make sure you saw the news about a huge victory yesterday in the U.S. House of Representatives. I wrote to you urging you to contact your Member of Congress to urge them to vote in favor of the DEA Appropriations Amendment. Many of you did. Thanks to that advocacy and the support of people around the country, the amendment passed 219 to 189. It was a victory that many didn't expect, but shows Americans are ready for a better approach to marijuana policy.
Thanks for your support and your help, and I will keep in touch about more developments on this amendment and this issue.
While there is still much work to be done, this historic vote is such a great step in the right direction and is certainly a reason to celebrate. Now, we move onto the Senate, where hopefully an identical provision will pass there, or there could be more work to be done in a joint committee if two different versions are passed by each chamber. Regardless, this is another victory in a long line of coming victories that will include tax code revisions, easing banking restrictions, state's rights to pass their own regulations regarding all adult use, and, ultimately, ending cannabis prohibition across the entire nation, and, dare we dream, the world.