Pubdate: Mon, 02 Jun 2014
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2014 The Washington Times, LLC.
Author: Stephen Dinan
Page: A3


They won a historic vote in the House last week on relaxing federal
marijuana policy, but backers said it's too early to declare victory,
acknowledging that it will be a tough fight to get something through
the Senate and on to President Obama this year.

Still, the vote, which approved language blocking the federal
government from interfering with state medical marijuana laws, was
stunning. It marked the first time either chamber of Congress has
approved a stand-down measure on the marijuana issue, and the 219-189
tally wasn't even close.

"This demonstrated something more than just the medical marijuana
issue," said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, the California Republican who led
the fight for the policy change. "It showed where you can actually
have a coalition on specific issues that can't move forward with just
one party, but there can be a coalition that can carry things through
when it's based on some kind of a more libertarian premise."

The fight came as part of the annual debate on the spending bill that
funds the Justice Department.

Mr. Rohrabacher's amendment stops all funding for the federal
government to interfere in medical marijuana policies in the District
of Columbia and the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona,
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, 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.

It does not change federal policy on recreational marijuana use, even
in Colorado and Washington, where voters have approved use of the drug
for recreational purposes.

Despite overwhelming House passage, it's doubtful the bill will clear
the Senate, backers said.

Neither Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski nor Alabama Sen. Richard
Shelby, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate spending
committee, have been approached about attaching a similar provision to
their version of the bill, and Mr. Shelby has signaled he opposes the

"Sen. Shelby opposes legalizing marijuana, and would therefore oppose
such a provision. However, he has not been approached about including
anything related in the Senate's version," said Jonathan Graffeo,
spokesman for Mr. Shelby.

Mr. Rohrabacher conceded it will likely take another year or so for
the House's momentum to carry over to the upper chamber.

"What happened was a historic breakthrough but it won't be totally
successful this Congress, but it puts us on a path to be successful in
the next Congress," he said.

Friday morning's vote saw 49 Republicans join with 170 Democrats in
backing the policy change for medical marijuana.

Only two years ago, a similar amendment garnered little more than 160
votes in support. The leap of nearly five dozen extra votes signals
just how quickly the politics of pot are changing.

Still, Mr. Rohrabacher said there should have been even more
Republicans in support, if only out of fealty to the principles of

The House also approved other amendments that would prevent the
federal government from hindering states that want to allow industrial
hemp production. While industrial hemp contains almost none of the
active ingredient that makes marijuana so potent, the plants look
similar and some authorities have feared the industrial plant could be
used to cover for marijuana plants.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt