Whoa! GOP Votes to Keep Gov't Out of Medical Pot

By Paul Gaita 05/30/14

In a rare display of actual conservatism, the Republican party helped stop government interference into states allowing medical marijuana.

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Twilight of prohibition? Shutterstock

In a surprising turn of events, the Republican-controlled House voted today 219-189, including 49 Republicans, to prevent the federal government from interfering with state laws that allow for the “use, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

If the appropriations amendment, authored by Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48) and co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of representatives, passes the Senate and is signed by President Obama, it would prevent the Justice Department and Drug Enforcement Administration from using taxpayer funds to arrest state-licensed medical marijuana patients and providers. Currently, marijuana for medical use is legal in 22 states and the District of Columbia, while an additional five states have legalized CBD oils, a non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

The vote reflected growing support for medical marijuana by Republican constituents; a recent poll by the Pew Research Center found that 67 percent of Republican constituents believe that government efforts to enforce marijuana laws are more costly than effective. It’s worth noting, however, that Republican representatives opposed the amendment by a ratio of 3 to 1, a number that stands in stark contrast to not only the number of Democrats that backed it 10 to 1, but also the American people in general.

A CNN poll conducted in January 2014 reported that 55 percent of Americans support legalization efforts, while a CBS News poll from the same month showed that 86 percent support doctors prescribing small amounts of marijuana for patients with serious illnesses. Supporters of medical marijuana issues are pleased with the outcome, regardless of the schism that exists within the parties.

“It’s clear that more politicians are beginning to realize that the American people want the federal government to stop standing in the way,” said Marijuana Majority chairman Tom Angell in a statement issued after the vote. “If any political observers weren’t aware that the end of the war on marijuana is nearing, they just found out.”

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.