The U.S. House voted 219-189 early Friday morning to deny the Justice Department funds that would be used to enforce federal marijuana laws if they prevented a state from implementing its own law permitting the use of medical marijuana. The vote was on an amendment to the bill funding the operation of the Justice Department for fiscal 2015, and was sponsored by GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California and cosponsored by Dr. Paul Broun of Georgia.
According to the Huffington Post, the bill was promoted as a states rights issue by its sponsors:
Rohrabacher said on the House floor that the amendment “should be a no-brainer” for conservatives who support states’ rights and argued passionately against allowing the federal government to interfere with a doctor-patient relationship.
Broun said there were “very valid medical reasons” to use marijuana extracts or products. “It’s less dangerous than some narcotics that doctors prescribe all over this country,” Broun said. He said medical marijuana was a states’ rights issue and Congress needed to “reserve the states’ powers under the Constitution.”
The Georgia delegation cast a split vote on the measure, with seven voting in favor, six against and one not voting. Voting in favor were Democrats Sanford Bishop, Hank Johnson and David Scott, and Republicans Paul Broun, Tom Graves, Lynn Westmoreland and Rob Woodall. Democrat John Barrow opposed the measure, along with Republicans Doug Collins, Phil Gingrey, Jack Kingston, Tom Price and Austin Scott. Democrat John Lewis did not vote. Overall, 49 Republicans and 170 Democrats voted for the amendment.
In the 2014 Georgia legislative session, the House passed a bill sponsored by GOP Rep. Allen Peake of Macon providing for the use of non-psychoactive cannabidiol oil in the treatment of seizures in children. The bill failed to win passage in the Senate, and later, Governor Deal announced pilot projects to allow experimental trials of cannabis oil in treating seizures.
The Rohrabacher amendment would sanction the use of medical marijuana beyond the use of CBD oil for the treatment of seizures. Indeed, it appears some consider the measure as a gateway to eventual legalization of recreational marijuana. Medical marijuana is legal in 22 states and the District of Columbia, while the use of CBD oil is permitted in five others. The amendment specifically names those states as exempt from Justice Department enforcement of current law.
The Senate is expected to pass its own appropriations bill funding the Justice and other related departments. The medical marijuana amendment would have to pass in that body as well before becoming law.