• Medical marijuana amendment included in spending bill

    Rohrabacher-Farr amendment prevents federal government from prosecuting medical marijuana patients

    The omnibus spending bill that Congress will likely vote on this week will include the bipartisan Rohrabacher-Farr amendment which prevents the federal government from using funds to arrest and prosecute medical marijuana patients or distributors who are in compliance with their state’s laws.

    Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., released the following statement:

    “This is great news for medical marijuana patients all across the country. The public has made it clear that they want common sense drug policies. The majority of states have passed reasonable medical marijuana laws but the federal government still lags behind. Our amendment prevents the unnecessary prosecution of patients while the federal government catches up with the views of the American people.

    “We need to rethink how we treat medical marijuana in this country and today’s announcement is a big step in the right direction. Patients can take comfort knowing they will have safe access to the medical care they need without fear of federal prosecution. And all of us can feel better knowing our federal dollars will be spent more wisely fighting actual crimes and not wasted going after patients,” said Farr.

    The House of Representatives previously approved the amendment 219-189 in May. The omnibus budget bill must now be approved by the full House and Senate, which are expected to vote later this week and, if passed, it will be sent to President Obama for signature. If signed by the president, the omnibus budget bill will be the vehicle that changes how federal enforcement is carried out in medical marijuana states, according to advocates. Specifically, it could derail many pending federal prosecutions of patients facing jail time and asset forfeiture.

    The measure restricting DOJ enforcement will not only impact several pending federal criminal cases, it will also affect the enforcement practices of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the federal agency responsible for hundreds of raids over the years.

    Statewide in California, 56 percent of the voters said yes on Prop 215 in 1996 to add 11362.5 to the Health and Safety Code, legalizing medical marijuana for seriously ill patients. That’s more California votes than Presidents Clinton or Bush received.

    Arizona passed Prop 200 by an even higher 65 percent majority. That law moved all drugs to a situation that would allow doctors to recommend them. The state legislature repealed the popular election vote, and voters promptly put it back onto the ballot as a referendum for 1998. It won there again in 1998, and voters in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Maine also legalized medical use of marijuana through the initiative process.

    In Pacific Grove in 1996, 7887 voters turned out to vote on the question of medical marijuana when Prop 215, the Compassionate Care Act, was put on the ballot. A total of 5,540 or 70.24 percent voted in favor of allowing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

    In 2010, the Pacific Grove City Council, when faced with the potential of allowing a medical marijuana dispensary, voted to set a moratorium banning dispensaries and eventually a full ban, following the cities of Monterey and Carmel. In discussions at the council meetings in 2010, it initially appeared that regulations might be drafted to allow such dispensary, not ban it. But in the end, the vote seemed to revolve around the council’s oath to uphold federal law, which could have meant prosecution and federal raids among other ramifications.

    Advocates of the amendment to the omnibus bill argue that this measure will remove the threat of federal retaliation, and pave the way for even more states to pass medical marijuana laws.

    Sam Farr’s office sees this as a step toward eventual relaxation of anti-marijuana laws nationwide. The action is being watched closely by various organizations such as Americans for Safe Access. NORML at CSUMB, and the ACLU. Of all drug-related arrests nationwide, 52 percent involved marijuana. How many of those were about medical marijuana, and thus the cost to taxpayers, is a question not easily answered.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on December 10, 2014

    Topics: Front PG News

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