Several marijuana-related amendments were introduced in the U.S. House on Wednesday, June 3. Some of the proposed amendments aimed to impact the Department of Justice (DOJ) and handicap their enforcement on local marijuana laws.
The amendments were presented as part of the funding bill which determines how the DOJ is able to spend money. Cannabis advocates both in and outside of the federal government are making a strong effort to educate and sway lawmakers.
One such advocate, Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, believes this is the time to bring members of the government to their side:
“The politics have continued to shift in favor of marijuana law reform. For a long time, lawmakers treated marijuana as a third-rail issue that was too dangerous to touch. But now that polling shows a growing majority of voters supports ending prohibition, more and more elected officials are starting to realize that demonstrating leadership on this issue has political benefits instead of harms.”
An amendment introduced by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R) and Sam Farr (D) forbids the DOJ from using federal funds to impede on states’ medical marijuana laws. This measure was approved in 2014, but must be renewed when the Justice Department’s spending bill expires each year. On Wednesday, it was approved again by a vote of 242-186. This is a significant increase from 2014 when the vote was 219-189.
Tom Angell, Chairman of the Marijuana Majority, commented on the increased support from lawmakers:
“Now that the House has gone on record with strong bipartisan votes for two years in a row to oppose using federal funds to interfere with state medical marijuana laws, it’s time for Congress to take up comprehensive legislation to actually change federal law. That’s what a growing majority of Americans wants, and these votes show that lawmakers are on board as well. Congress clearly wants to stop the the Justice Department from spending money to impose failed marijuana prohibition policies onto states, so there’s absolutely no reason those policies themselves should remain on the lawbooks any longer.”
The amendment from Reps. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) was pushing for even more than just impacting state medical laws. It would have denied the DOJ the ability to use federal funds to interfere with state laws allowing recreational marijuana use. This amendment was defeated, however, by a vote of 206-222.
Still, drug policy reform in the United States is shifting for the better, and funding is being reallocated to benefit citizens of the United States. Three other amendments, combined, significantly reduced the budget of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Those funds were reallocated to such subjects as solving the rape kit testing backlog, helping child abuse victims and paying for police body cameras.
Tom Angell commented on this in an email to Whaxy:
“Almost anything would be a more effective use of taxpayer resources than paying DEA agents to arrest people for marijuana. Thanks to these amendments that succeeded in swiftly cutting $23 million from the drug agency in about 10 minutes of floor time, this money will be used for things that actually help people instead of being used to ruin people’s lives for no good reason.”
Another win on Wednesday was sponsored by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.). She presented an amendment to protect state hemp laws from the DOJ. In another increase in support from lawmakers over last year, it was approved by a vote of 282-146.
This will assist farmers in the movement towards legal hemp cultivation in the United States. Hemp originates from the same plant as cannabis, but does not offer the intoxicating feeling. It is used around the world to make materials such as paper, rope, and cloth.
The increase in support of cannabis policy reform by United States lawmakers in just one year, from 2014 to 2015, is a sign of hope for continued progress in the future.