Pubdate: Thu, 24 May 2012
Source: Sacramento News & Review (CA)
Copyright: 2012 Chico Community Publishing, Inc.
Author: David Downs


Failed Amendment Signals No Quick End to Medical-Cannabis Policy

This month, millions of medical-marijuana supporters nationwide
cheered a long-shot congressional effort in Washington, D.C., to
defund the federal crackdown on medical cannabis.

The Hinchey-Rohrabacher medical-marijuana amendment promised to send a
strong message to President Barack Obama that the Department of
Justice should stop obstructing state medical-marijuana laws.

The amendment to House Resolution 5326, which funds the Department of
Justice, read: "None of the funds made available in this Act to the
Department of Justice may be used ... to prevent ... states from
implementing their own State laws that authorize the use,
distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana."

But the amendment failed in the House on Wednesday, May 9, at 11:42
p.m. on a tallied vote of 163-262.

The California Congressional delegation voted 34-18 in favor of the
amendment, though, notes Dale Gieringer, California head of the
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

"California Democrats voted overwhelmingly in favor of medical
marijuana," Gieringer wrote, "including [House] Minority Leader Nancy
Pelosi, who did not vote last time because she was speaker, and Rep.
Jerry McNerney, who changed his vote from last time."

"A puzzling 'no' came from liberal Democrat Maxine Waters, who has
previously been a reliable and vocal supporter of drug- and
prison-reform measures," Gieringer stated.

California Republicans still favor government spending on a drug
"nanny state," said Gieringer, "with the notable libertarian-leaning
exceptions of [Reps. Dana] Rohrabacher, [Tom] McClintock, Ed Royce and
John Campbell."

The amendment was a long shot that had been tried five times prior,
from 2003 to 2007. According to National Cannabis Industry Association
lobbyist in Washington, D.C., Steve Fox, the amendment's five-year
absence in the House speaks volumes about a milder enforcement climate

The return of the amendment also matters, as it closely tracks the
intensifying, multipronged federal crackdown on medical cannabis. More
than a dozen U.S. attorneys have threatened state employees with jail
for implementing lawful state medical-marijuana programs.

The 2012 amendment arose quickly and seemingly out of nowhere, Fox
said, indicating patient outcry is reaching representatives' ears.

"It seems to have struck a chord, there's absolutely no doubt about
it," Fox said.

And the mix of support in 2012 contains more of the GOP than before,
Gieringer stated.

"It picked up substantially more Republican support than the last time
around in 2007... the trend indicates growing bipartisan support for
changing federal policy," he stated.
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