House Passes Historic Law to End Federal Interference in CA’s Marijuana Laws: Tell California’s Senators to Do the Same

*** Cal NORML Action Alert ***

Click here to call on Senators Feinstein and Boxer to support the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which would prohibit the US Department of Justice from spending resources to interfere with California’s marijuana laws.

Cal NORML director Dale Gieringer congratulates
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher on his legislative success.

June 2, 2014 – In a historic vote, the House of Representatives approved an amendment by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Newport Beach) and Sam Farr (D-Monterey) denying the Department of Justice funding to prevent states from implementing their own marijuana laws.

The vote marked the first time that a house of Congress moved to block federal efforts to overturn state medical marijuana laws. Supporters were surprised by their 219-189 margin of victory, which was aided by 49 Republican defections from their conservative, prohibitionist party leadership.

“I told my Republican friends there’s no way you can claim to support states’ rights and oppose federal government interference and not support this bill,” said Rohrabacher, who has been the party’s leading critic of federal marijuana policy.

The Senate must still approve the amendment in order for it to become law. Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Corey Booker (D-NJ) have moved to sponsor the measure, but it is uncertain as of this writing whether a vote will take place.

California’s senators voiced differing reactions. “If a similar amendment were proposed in the Senate, I would strongly oppose it,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a veteran champion of federal drug prohibition, warning that the bill would thwart federal action against “rogue medical marijuana dispensaries.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer, though once an opponent of Prop. 215, stated, “I strongly support cutting off funds that would shut down legal and licensed medical marijuana dispensaries,” while adding, “I believe that federal funds should not be cut off if the DEA is asked by the state to go after rogue operators.”

Supporters note that there is nothing in Rohrabacher-Farr to block federal action against rogue operators who are in conflict with state laws, only actions aimed at preventing states from implementing their own marijuana policies.

In a second vote, the House approved a similar amendment by Rep. Susan Bonamici (D-OR) to prohibit the DOJ from spending funds to interfere with state laws authorizing industrial hemp.
A third measure by Jared Polis (D-CO) to deny the DEA a requested $35 million budget increase was soundly rejected by a vote of 66-339. Polis sharply criticized DEA director Michele Leonhart as a “terrible agency head” and an embarassment to the agency.

Regardless of whether the Senate approves the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, the House vote marks a huge victory for critics of federal marijuana policy. Previous attempts in the House to cut off DOJ funding for medical marijuana raids had been handily defeated in a succession of attempts dating back to 2003. As recently as May 1, an amendment by Reps. Farr, Rohrabacher, and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to let VA physicians recommend medical marijuana was defeated by a vote of 195-222.

See the voting record of California congress members on cannabis-related legislation.

Excerpted from CalNORML’s July 2014 newsletter. Join Cal NORML and receive our quarterly newsletter.

California NORML has sent the following FAX to Sen. Feinstein’s office:

Dear Sen. Feinstein:

We urge you to reconsider your opposition to the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, as stated in the San Jose Mercury (May 31):

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Friday that “if a similar amendment were offered in the Senate, I would strongly oppose it.” Feinstein, D-Calif., said she’s sympathetic to legitimate patients’ needs, but “rogue medical marijuana dispensaries, which require little or no medical bona fides and are prevalent throughout California, present major challenges for communities across the country.” Federal action has closed more than 400 such “rogue dispensaries” in California since 2012, she said, “but the House amendment would prevent these critical enforcement activities from continuing.”

Please note that Rohrabacher-Farr in no way bars federal action against “rogue dispensaries.” Rather, it states that DOJ funds shan’t be used “”to prevent states from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of marijuana.” This in no way prevents DOJ from pursuing rogue dispensaries who violate state laws. Rather, it is aimed at ending DOJ threats to arrest public officials for supporting legal access to marijuana, or to sabotage legal licensing schemes such as Mendocino County’s 9.31 outdoor cultivation program.

The continuing failure of the federal government to recognize the medical value of marijuana remains an ongoing, needless source of friction between the state and federal governments . On behalf of the millions of Californians who support Prop 215, please support Rohrabacher-Farr and help end the DOJ’s futile, costly and obsolescent crusade against state marijuana laws.


Dale Gieringer, Director, California NORML

Click here to call on Senators Feinstein and Boxer to support the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which would prohibit the US Department of Justice from spending resources to interfere with California’s marijuana laws.

UPDATE: The House followed up with another historic vote in July, approving amendment 1086 to H.R. 5016, the Financial Services appropriations bill, to prevent the Treasury Department from spending funds penalizing banks that accept deposits from marijuana businesses. The amendment was co-sponsored by Rep. Rohrabacher and Barbara Lee.

In June, Senator Rand Paul introduced a Senate amendment to the Justice Department budget bill similar to the successful House DEA de-funding amendment in the Senate. Shortly thereafter, Paul filed amendment 3630 to a jobs bill in the Senate, allowing states to “enact and implement laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana for medical use” without fear of federal prosecution.

See Congressional Voting Records for California elected officials.

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