According to a recent news report from The Cannabist, the United States House of Representatives has just passed the Rohrabacher-Farr Medical Marijuana Amendment, but failed to pass the McClintock-Polis Amendment.
First, let’s take a closer look at the bill that did pass, pursuant to a house vote. The Rohrabacher-Farr Medical Marijuana Amendment is the same legislation already in place based upon last year’s vote, which prevents the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) from interfering with states’ medical marijuana programs. This law passed last year with a vote of 219 to 189. In order for it to remain in place, House members were required to vote on the amendment again this year, and there was increased support, as it passed 242 to 186.
While it is always good to see increased support for legalized medical marijuana, even with more GOP party members holding seats than in previous years, the House failed to pass the McClintock-Polis Amendment, as it was defeated by a vote of 206 to 222. This amendment would have prevented the DOJ from arresting and prosecuting people for use, sale or possession of marijuana in a state in which it is legal under relevant state laws.
As our Los Angeles medical cannabis attorneys can explain, had this law passed, it would have finally allowed medical cannabis dispensaries and cultivators to operate in the state of California without any fear of being prosecuted by federal authorities for a violation of federal anti-marijuana legislation.
Essentially, the problem is that marijuana is still listed under Schedule I of the United States Controlled Substances Act (USCSA). In other words, not matter what any state does, it is still illegal to possess any measurable quantity of marijuana. The reason medical marijuana dispensaries are not raided on a daily basis in California any longer is because the current presidential administration has chosen not to do so. President Obama has said it will not be a priority of the DOJ to prosecute people involved in the medical marijuana industry in states in which it is legal. However, this could change at any time.
This new proposed amendment would have made it a law that the DOJ could not engage in such prosecutions, even if they wanted to. Unfortunately, this did not pass the House, but House Representative Jared Polis, a Democrat from Colorado who sponsored the legislation, said, while he was disappointed it did not pass, he is confident it will succeed in time, as more and more Americans are coming around to support legalization of marijuana.
During a rather impassioned speech during the vote, Polis said the “federal government shouldn’t be swooping into Colorado to decide how we regulate marijuana any more than it should be swooping in to Louisiana to tell them how they should regulate crawfish.”
Despite the added amendment failing to pass, many legalization advocates still had reason to celebrate the passing of the overall legislative packet. It should be noted that, even though it has passed the House, it must now go to the U.S. Senate, where committees there can make their own amendment before passing legislation. If the versions are not the same, and it is likely that they won’t be, the bill must come back to be reconciled, so a uniform version goes to the President for signature.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
House passes bill to prevent DOJ from interfering in states’ medical pot laws , June 3, 2015, The Cannabist
More Blog Entries:
Four Competing California Marijuana Legalization Proposals, April 3, 2015, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog