UPDATE (5/30/2014, 8am Pacific): This morning, Congress published the full text of the Rohrabacher amendment, as adopted. The text is appended below.
The US House vote approving Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s (R-Calif.) amendment to HR 4660, a criminal justice funding bill, is a major victory for the national cannabis reform movement – but it isn’t the victory some major outlets have claimed.
The amendment, which passed by a vote count of 219-189 in the evening of May 29th after initially being declared defeated by the chair on a voice vote, has been recorded as “An amendment, offered by Mr. Rohrabacher, numbered 25 printed in the Congressional Record to prohibit the use of funds to prevent certain States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”
That’s great news, but as of 11:30pm on May 29th Huffington Post’s coverage reports that the amendment would “restrict the Drug Enforcement Administration from using funds to go after medical marijuana operations that are legal under state laws.” Unfortunately for dispensary owners in embattled states like California or Michigan, that is not the same thing.
Rohrabacher’s amendment, assuming the GPO’s summary is accurate, would only prohibit Justice from targeting “States” in attempts to interfere with their “implementing their own State laws” concerning medical marijuana. That’s a clear reference to the federal authority, presently unchecked by act of Congress, to enjoin state governments from even trying to regulate medical marijuana industries. No protections for patients or collectives are specified in the amendment summary, despite HuffPost’s claims. Thus, while the Rohrabacher amendment is undeniably a win for medical cannabis advocates, its passage would merely codify a policy which the DOJ has already voluntarily agreed to.
The amendment must still survive reconciliation with the Senate version of the funding bill and receive President Obama’s signature before it becomes law. Now is a good time for advocates to capitalize on the present political momentum, to demand an actual and decisive defunding of the federal war on cannabis patients, once and for all.
FULL TEXT OF ROHRABACHER AMENDMENT:
“AMENDMENT TO H.R. 4660, AS REPORTED (CJS APPROPRIATIONS) OFFERED BY MR. ROHRABACHER OF CALIFORNIA
At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following:
SEC. ll. None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”