One Giant Leap: Congress Moves on Medical Marijuana

For the first time, the Republican-controlled House of Represntatives has voted in favor of marijuana legislation.

In a historic vote on May 29, the House passed an amendment to the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill (a.k.a. the "Cromnibus" spending bill) that prevents the Justice Department from using federal funds to crack down on businesses and patients in state where medical marijuana is legal. The final tally was 219 to 189.

The amendment has been voted on in various forms six times previously dating back to 2003. No more than 165 Reps had ever supported the measure in the past. A total of 49 Republicans backed this legislation.

Sponsored by Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA), the amendment protects patients in 32 states and Washington, DC that have medical cannabis laws on the books.

The wording is as follows:

'None of the funds made available in this Act may be used, with respect to the states of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.'

New York, which passed MMJ legislation in June, is not on the list of states.

"This vote can largely be attributed to the fact that lawmakers only recently began hearing the moving stories of the many children whose severe seizures are only relieved by marijuana," says Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority. "Being able to list these CBD states in the amendment text meant that more members of Congress that represent these states voted yes than otherwise would have. Counting these states, 60% of the U.S. population lives in a place where state law disagrees with federal law."

However, Freedom Leaf senior editor Chris Goldstein contends: "Even if all those steps are fulfilled there will likely be no change to the current Department of Justice policy or practice, meaning that the waste of federal law-enforcement resources on medical-marijuana raids will continue." 

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.