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The House voted on several pro-pot amendments on Wednesday aimed at tackling the sticky issue of conflicts that arise when the Department of Justice interferes with state implementation of local marijuana laws.
In many ways, the marijuana measures, which would be tacked onto the FY2016 Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill, reflect the “chronic” policy and political complications that have unfolded in the state-led push to legalize marijuana.
One failed congressional amendment, offered by Rep. Tom McClintock, R-California and Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colorado, would have prohibited federal funds from being used to interfere with any state marijuana laws including recreational use.
“It only affects jurisdiction that is strictly and solely the rightful province of the states as pertains to their affairs, strictly and solely within their own borders,” McClintock said on the House floor defending the constitutionality of his amendment to critics. “We must ask ourselves do, we believe in the 10th amendment or do we not? Do we believe in federalism or do we not? Do we believe in the architecture of our constitution, or do we not? Do we believe in freedom or do we not?”
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California lawmakers Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican, and Rep. Sam Farr, a Democrat, offered their bi-partisan medical marijuana amendment. The measure, which passed again on Wednesday, would prohibit federal funds from interfering with states’ medical marijuana laws.
“The practical aspect of this vote is based on the realization that at a time of severely limited resources it makes sense to target terrorists, criminals and other threats to the American people rather than use federal law enforcement resources to prevent suffering and sick people from using a weed that may or may not alleviate their suffering,” Rohrabacher said on the House floor in the wee hours on Wednesday.
The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment was previously passed in 2014 by a vote of 219-189 but needs to be renewed each fiscal year.
An amendment by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Oregon, that would block federal money from being used to prevent states from allowing the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of industrial hemp also passed. So did an amendment from Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pennsylvania, would prevent federal funds from stopping states from implementing laws relating to cannabidiol oil.
Earlier this year, the president suggested the administration has a nuanced approached to the issue of medical marijuana.
“I'm on record as saying that not only do I think carefully prescribed medical use of marijuana may in fact be appropriate and we should follow the science as opposed to ideology on this issue, but I'm also on record as saying that the more we treat some of these issues related to drug abuse from a public health model and not just from an incarceration model, the better off we're going to be,” President Barack Obama said in a CNN documentary on medical marijuana.