For the first time since the war on drugs began, the US House of Representatives delivered a mortal blow to both the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Agency by striking down their ability to go after patients and growers of medical marijuana. In a historic 219 to 189 vote, the lower chamber of Congress restricted the two agencies from using any taxpayer money to interfere with state regulated medical marijuana programs. With the 2016 United Nations investigation to uncover human rights violations caused by the imprisonment of people using or selling marijuana just around the corner, the move to keep the federal hands off of non-violent marijuana users was a show that even America the Great can make mistakes, and is willing to fix them.
“It would be hard to overstate the importance of tonight’s vote,” said NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri. “Approval of this amendment is a resounding victory for basic compassion and common sense. The measure squeaked by with only 49 republican votes out of 221, being pushed into law by House democrats with an overwhelming 170 for and 17 against. Still, the authorship of the amendment was a collaboration of both parties who want to see marijuana and its medical uses available to those in need of its healing properties without fear that their lives could be destroyed if federal agencies turned their magnifying glass on them.
“This historic vote shows just how quickly marijuana reform has become a mainstream issue,” stated the chairman of Marijuana Majority, Tom Angell. “If any political observers weren’t aware that the end of the war on marijuana is nearing, they just found out.”
While those in the Presidential Office seem to want to push the issue aside, preferring to teeter on the fence until someone else makes a move, the call to all government agencies to end the prohibition on marijuana on every level of its use has gone from a quiet whisper to an overwhelming demand. The call is not falling on deaf ears either. Oregon Democratic Representative Earl Blumenauer notes a new wind in the air when it comes to the thoughts and feelings on medical marijuana among him and his constituents.
“The president in statements has said he has ‘bigger fish to fry,’ but there are 93 US attorneys who are occasionally frying smaller fish,” said Blumenauer. “There have been similar situations where people have been running legitimate — under state law — marijuana enterprises and they’ve got federal interference. It’s inappropriate.” With states no longer needing to fear federal persecution for having medical marijuana programs, the thought of having legal weed for recreational use across the country is now a very viable possibility. Considering the boost in tourism and the dollars the followed during the first three months of full legalization in Colorado and the upcoming ballots where marijuana use can be voted on at the state level, it isn’t too far of a stretch to see many states opening recreational marijuana shops as early as next year.
Still, the measure has to pass through the hands of the Senate and get a nod from Obama to go into effect. While some fear, as the Huffington Post suggests, that the government refuses to listen to the people, citing that the most popular bill on Congress.gov, the bill to legalize marijuana for both medical and recreational use has not yet been addressed. The vote that lasted into the early hours Friday morning may just be the foundation the Senate and Obama have been waiting for to put a resolution to the bill the country is eager to finalize.
You can watch the recording of the live-streamed event below. There is an audio issue until around the 2:00 mark, so you may wish to skip to there.