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Tonight, House Votes on Bill Banning Federal Funding for Medical Pot Crackdown

 
 
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 Drug policy activists are urging medical marijuana patients, advocates, and supporters to contact their legislatures immediately and tell them to vote yes on the Rohrabacher-Hinchey-Farr Amendment to the Appropriations bill (HR 5326). The amendment aims to curb federal interference in state medical marijuana programs by banning federal funding for raids in those states. 

Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, explained why ASA is asking the public to call legislators and rally their support for the bill: 

When the federal government tries to stop access to medicine, they are trying to undo tens of thousands of hours work that advocates and local governments have put in to creating regulations for safe access to cannabis. The DEA wants to deny patients medicine that can dramatically improve their lives, or reduce their suffering. Without safe access to cannabis, patients and caregivers have to resort to the inconsistency of the illicit market.

That is why Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher, Maurice Hinchey and Sam Farr will introduced a bipartisan amendment to deny funding to DEA raids against dispensaries operating in accordance with state law. This amendment to an Appropriations bill would not legalize marijuana, but would preserve state's rights to allow compassionate use, and support local government decision-making.

The Drug Policy Alliance is urging medical marijuana advocates to sign a letter explaining the importance of the bill to legislators.

“History is calling on President Obama to protect terminally ill patients from suffering, and he is dangerously close to falling on the wrong side,” Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance said in a press release, “He will continue to pay a political price as long as his administration continues to waste taxpayer money undermining state law.”

Still, others are more cynical that the bill will stop the DEA from raiding medical pot programs:

A basic, structural feature of Drug War funding are the federal asset forfeiture laws that drive hundreds of millions of dollars of seizure revenue into funds not appropriated by Congress but by the Department of Justice itself.

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Note again that line from the Rohrabacher-Hinchey-Farr Amendment…”None of the funds made available in this Act”…that is, funds appropriated by Congress. But this ignores the river of non-appropriated forfeiture revenue controlled by the [Department of Justice] DOJ, implying that in the case that this law is read to substantially affect appropriations for federal marijuana law enforcement, DOJ agencies will just find their revenue from non-appropriated sources. Moreover, the federal Equitable Sharing program is slated to distribute close to half a billion dollars in forfeiture revenue to state and local law enforcement agencies participating in a federal seizure in 2013. Another $147 million in forfeiture revenue is budgeted for joint operations between state and federal law enforcement operations. In other words, the DEA and any other federal agency that still deems it worthwhile to enforce federal law against state-legal medical marijuana operations still has plenty of funding…and motive…to do so.

Sign the letter to representatives here.  Read more about the bill's potential shortfall here

AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne

Posted at May 9, 2012, 9:37am