Medical marijuana, experiencing a huge spark with a recent outcry of public support across the United States, has now spread to members of Congress, as the U.S. House of Representatives votes to stop federal raids on those who use medical marijuana. Last Thursday evening the House passed an amendment that would prevent the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from pursuing individuals and patients in states where medical use of the drug is legal.
Coming as a pleasant surprise to many citizens across the U.S., the House’s decision reached across party lines, with both Democrats and Republicans showing their support of the amendment with their votes. In a 219 to 189 decision the amendment, led by California Democratic Representative Sam Farr and California Republican Dana Rohrabacher, is the first amendment of its kind to succeed in the House of Representatives.
While the amendment was able to pass mainly due to vast support from Democratic members of the House, there was an observable majority of Republican votes cast in support of the said measure. For this to have happened, the amendment had already been previously backed by a group of co-sponsors from the two opposing parties.
The issue faced in the decision to stop medical marijuana raids was the fact that there was a “routine spending bill” which had been already in place. This allowed for federal tax dollars to be awarded to various government agencies, especially the Justice Department. In turn, the Justice Department has continued its raids of medical marijuana facilities in states across the country where medicinal sales are allowed and adhere to legal terms. However, the new amendment recently passed by the House hopes to prevent federal agencies from continuing these raids henceforth.
Director of Federal Policies at the Marijuana Policy Project Dan Riffle stated that Congress and the overall federal government have begun their shift toward “a more sensible policy” regarding pot, facing strong public pressure. He also made the statement that this vote is historically important after years of the government-initiated “war on drugs” during Ronald Reagan’s years in the White House.
While some critics have made their case that the amendment would only increase the misuse of an “addictive drug” and prevent the DEA from spotting illegal street dealers, House Republican Andy Harris stated in response how other drugs that are addictive have not been advertised as having positive medical benefits.
Unlike marijuana, which many health experts agree has improved patients’ general health, legal substances like nicotine and tobacco cause cancer and have not showed any positive medicinal benefits in any instance. As Harris said, “Nobody writes a prescription and says ‘Smoke a couple of cigarettes and cure your epilepsy.’”
As the U.S. House of Representatives votes to stop medical marijuana raids in the future through the passing of this new amendment, it faces other obstacles as it still needs approval from both the Senate and President Barack Obama. Yet many people across the country, including advocates, patients, doctors, average citizens, and an increasing number of politicians, remain steadfast in their hopes of a nearing reality of both the ultimate decriminalization and legalization of marijuana in the U.S.
By Scott Gaudinier