Washington, DC: State-authorized patients and their caregivers who possess or use medical cannabis will continue to be subject to federal arrest and prosecution, after the House of Representatives rejected a proposed amendment that sought to limit the US Justice Department’s ability to federally prosecute patients and caregivers who are compliant with state medical marijuana laws.
The House voted 262 to 165 against the bi-partisan measure, sponsored by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Maurice Hinchey (D-NY). The 165 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 three votes from 2006) and 150 were Democrats (a gain of six votes vote from last year).
“The newly elected Democrat Congress had an opportunity to stop wasting taxpayers’ dollars arresting seriously ill patients who possess and use medical cannabis in compliance with state law,” NORML Executive Director St Pierre said. “Sadly, 262 members of Congress – including 80 Democrats and 182 Republicans – chose instead to continue prosecuting patients.”
Representatives Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), along with Reps. Steven Cohen (D-TN) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) spoke in favor of the amendment, while Republican Reps. Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ) and David Weldon (FL) spoke in opposition to the proposed measure.
In his testimony before the House, Rep. Frelinghuysen reported that he’d recently received a letter from Drug Czar John Walters urging him and his colleagues to oppose the Hinchey/Rohrabacher amendment.
Earlier this month, officials from the US Drug Enforcement Administration issued letters to the landlords of several medical cannabis facilities in Los Angeles warning owners that they risk arrest and the loss of their property if they continue renting to cannabis dispensaries. In addition, the DEA has taken action against more than a dozen dispensaries in southern California in the past week – including ten yesterday.
It is estimated that approximately 180 dispensaries are operating in the Los Angeles area.
“It is immoral and unconscionable that the DEA continues to take these heavy-handed and coercive efforts to deny patients access to their medicine, and it is even more disappointing that they continue to have the blessing of Congress to continue to do so,” St. Pierre said.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500 or Dale Gieringer, California NORML Coordinator, at (415) 563-5858. Final vote tallies for the Hinchey/Rohrabacher medical marijuana amendment are available online at: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2007/roll733.xml.