Washington, DC: State-authorized patients and their caregivers who use or possess medical cannabis will continue to be subject to federal arrest and prosecution, after the House of Representatives rejected a proposed amendment to bar the US Department of Justice (DOJ) from targeting patients who use marijuana medicinally in accordance with the laws of their states.
The House voted 264 to 161 against the bi-partisan measure, sponsored by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Maurice Hinchey (D-NY). The 161 House votes in favor of the patient-protection provision was the highest total ever recorded in a Congressional floor vote to liberalize marijuana laws. Of those who voted in support of the Hinchey/Rohrabacher medical marijuana amendment, 15 were Republicans (a loss of four votes from 2004) and 128 were Democrats (a gain of 17 votes from last year). The House’s only Independent Congressman, Vermont Representative Bernard Sanders, also voted in favor of the amendment.
This year’s vote came days after the US Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the Justice Department has the authority to prosecute state-authorized medicinal cannabis patients for violating the federal Controlled Substances Act. Writing for the majority, Justice John Paul Stevens called on Congress to address the issue of whether the use of medicinal cannabis should be criminalized.
“With the Supreme Court’s ruling, Congress and the Justice Department have a choice: They can choose to waste taxpayers’ dollars and undermine states’ rights by arresting and prosecuting seriously ill patients who possess and use medical cannabis in compliance with state law, or they can choose more worthwhile priorities, like protecting national security,” NORML Executive Director St. Pierre said. “Yesterday, 264 members of Congress chose to prosecute patients.”
Speaking on the House floor in favor of yesterday’s amendment, co-sponsor Maurice Hinchey said, “It is unconscionable that we in Congress could possibly presume to tell a patient that he or she cannot use the only medication that has proven to combat the pain and symptoms associated with a devastating illness. How can we tell very sick people that they cannot have the drug that could save their lives simply because of a narrow ideology and bias against that drug in this Congress? … Taxpayers’ dollars should not be spent on sending seriously or terminally ill patients to jail.”
Also speaking in favor of the provision were Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and co-sponsor Dana Rohrabacher, along with Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Sam Farr (D-CA), Barney Frank (D-MA), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).
Congressmen Elton Gallegly (R-CA), Steve King (R-IA), John Peterson (R-PA), Mark Souder (R-IN) and Frank Wolf (R-VA) spoke in opposition to the amendment.
Final vote tallies for the Hinchey/Rohrabacher medical marijuana amendment are available online at: