Pubdate: Fri, 30 May 2014
Source: Kansas City Star (MO)
Copyright: 2014 The Kansas City Star
Author: Rob Hotakainen, McClatchy Washington Bureau
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - U.S.)


For the first time, the House of Representatives voted early Friday 
to block the federal government from enforcing its marijuana laws in 
states that have approved use of the drug for medical purposes.

Marijuana advocates called the vote historic.

"This is a game changer that paves the way for much more policy 
change to come," said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans 
For Safe Access, a group that has lobbied to end federal penalties 
for marijuana use.

The plan passed 219-189, with 49 Republicans teaming up with 170 
Democrats to approve the measure shortly after midnight.

Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California attached the language 
as an amendment to a bill that would fund the U.S. Justice Department.

It attracted votes from conservative Republicans such as Doc Hastings 
of Washington state and Don Young of Alaska. In Washington state, 
which along with Colorado approved marijuana for recreational use in 
2012, Hastings was the only Republican who voted for the measure, 
joining all six Democrats in the state's delegation.

"I think it says we're finally getting through to the Republican 
Party," said Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the 
Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization group. "It has always 
confused me when people refer to this as a liberal issue. William F. 
Buckley and Milton Friedman were supporters of marijuana reform, and 
medical marijuana in particular. It's about reducing the size and 
scope of government, getting government out of the doctor-patient 
relationship, and letting states be laboratories of democracy rather 
than a one-size-fits-all federal mandate."

As a result of the vote, "Congress is officially pulling out of the 
war on medical marijuana patients and providers," he said.

Tom Angell, chairman of the pro-legalization group Marijuana 
Majority, said the vote shows how quickly marijuana reform "has 
become a mainstream issue." He said it reflected the fact that 
members of Congress are hearing more stories about medical uses of 
marijuana, including by children who suffer from seizures.

"If any political observers weren't aware that the end of the war on 
marijuana is nearing, they just found out," he said.

While Congress' official position is that marijuana is a drug with no 
medical value, 22 states now allow medical marijuana, with Minnesota 
the latest to approve it this week when Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton 
signed a bill into law.

Kevin Sabet, who heads the anti-legalization group Project SAM (Smart 
Approaches to Marijuana) said the House vote would make it harder for 
the federal government to pursue illegal activity.

"No one wants to arrest cancer patients, but as it is, we know 
Colombian cartels are connected to selling marijuana under the guise 
of medicine and that marijuana is proliferating on public lands," he 
said. "We're also witnessing a train wreck in places like Colorado. 
This amendment hurts our ability to go after traffickers and 
producers, and I think a lot of members didn't fully realize that 
when they voted for it."

While marijuana advocates celebrated, the measure still faces an 
uncertain fate in the current Congress. No similar legislation has 
been introduced in the Senate.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom