A bipartisan amendment to the Fiscal Year 2016 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations spending bill that prohibits DEA and Department of Justice funds from being used to interfere in states that have legalized medical marijuana passed the House today by a margin of 242-186. The amendment is a renewal of the one that passed in May of last year and was reintroduced by Representatives Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA). A similar amendment was also passed protecting states that have allowed industrial hemp. Yesterday, the House passed an amendment to ban the DEA’s bulk data collection program and slashed the DEA budget by $23 million. Instead, that money will now go to combat child abuse, improve the testing of rape kits, expand the use of body cameras on police officers, and reduce the deficit.
“Even Congress is now acknowledging the failures of the drug war and of the DEA and its invasive methods,” said Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. “Conservatives believe states have the right to decide their own rules, libertarians understand prohibition infringes upon civil liberties, and liberals know the effect prohibition has had on racial minorities, families, and communities.”
A separate amendment introduced by Representatives Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Jared Polis (D-CO) that would have prevented the DEA from undermining state rights in places that have legalized marijuana narrowly failed by a vote of 206-222.
“Continued protection for medical marijuana patients is something most politicians now agree upon, and we can expect that states’ recreational marijuana laws will soon have the same level of protection against federal interference,” said Lieutenant Commander Diane Goldstein (Ret.)
In August 2013, the Justice Department released a memorandum stating that the DOJ would no longer go after states that chose to legalize and regulate marijuana, as long as those states prohibited access to children, limited the involvement of organized criminal activity in the industry, and abided by other reasonable standards.
Currently, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana and four states along with D.C. have legalized marijuana outright. According to the centrist think tank Third Way, 67% of Americans believe Congress should pass a bill to protect states from federal interference if they choose to legalize marijuana, so long as a strong regulatory system is in place.
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is a group of law enforcement officers opposed to the War on Drugs.