GOP-Controlled House Votes to Block Feds from Interfering in States with Legal Medical Pot

The GOP-controlled House showed signs of sanity when it voted early Friday in favor of blocking the federal government from interfering with states that permit the use of medical marijuana. 

The 219-189 vote came about as the House debated a bill funding the Justice Department's budget, AP reported.

Conservative GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California, the first state in the country to legalize medical marijuana, was among those behind the amendment, pointing out that, "Public opinion is shifting."  This is true even among Republicans. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that 61 percent of Republicans support the legalization of medical marijuana. And in general, Pew found nearly three-in-four Americans (72%) believe that efforts to enforce marijuana laws cost more than they are worth. But the federal government, and the DEA, have lagged far behind the rest of the public and continued their hard line of oppression and enforcement against the industry, medical marijuana users and legal pot in general.

A few other related landmark votes were taken as well Friday. An amendment prohibiting the DEA from interfering with state hemp production laws passed with 237 yes votes. An amendment prohibiting the DEA from interfering with state hemp research programs passed with 246 yes votes. 

“Each of these votes represents a major victory for those seeking more sensible marijuana policies,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Taken together, they represent an unprecedented change in course in the war on drugs. For years state after state has reformed their drug laws; now there’s a bipartisan consensus in Congress in favor of letting states set their own marijuana policies.”

According to the Drug Policy Alliance:

The votes are an embarrassment for the DEA and DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart who is under increasing pressure to step down. Earlier this month the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General launched investigations into numerous DEA scandals, including the massacre of civilians in Honduras, the use of NSA data to both spy on virtually all Americans and to systematically fabricate evidence, controversial uses of confidential informants, airline passenger searches, and sexual misconduct. DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart herself has been at the center of several scandals, including the House of Death scandal in which the DEA may have turned a blind eye to torture and murder, and the Andrew Chambers scandal, in which the DEA rehired a confidential informant with a history of lying.  

“DEA Administrator Leonhart is virtually the only person left who still zealously supports the failed war on drugs,” said Piper. “These votes are her wake up call. It is time for her to go.”

Leonhart contradicts drug policy reforms being pursued by her bosses, Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama, and both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. She publicly rebuked President Obama for admitting that marijuana is as safe as alcohol, told members of Congress that the DEA will continue to go after marijuana even in states where it is legal despite DOJ guidance stating otherwise, and has spoken out against bipartisan drug sentencing reform in Congress that the Obama Administration is supporting. Attorney General Eric Holder recently scolded her. Criminal justice reformers have said Leonhart lacks the ability to lead and should resign. Activists are using the Twitter hashtag #FireLeonhart.  

The measure now heads to the Democratic Senate.


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