House Votes To Prevent Feds From Enforcing Pot Laws In Legal States

By Bryan Le 06/24/19

The Democrat-led arm of Congress seeks to keep federal marijuana enforcement out of places where citizens have voted it legal.

Medical marijuana in a large jar at a legal marijuana dispensary.
Peter Kim |

The feds at the Department of Justice will no longer be able to enforce marijuana laws in legal states if the House of Representatives gets its way, Marijuana Moment reports.

While the House is majority Democrat, the measure passed with a floor vote of 267 to 165, meaning the effort was bipartisan. If it passes, the DOJ will no longer have a say regarding state laws that govern recreational use, growing pot or selling the stuff.

“This is the most significant vote on marijuana reform policy that the House of Representatives has ever taken,” said Justin Strekal, Political Director at NORML. “Today’s action by Congress highlights the growing power of the marijuana law reform movement and the increasing awareness by political leaders that the policy of prohibition and criminalization has failed.”

Members of the marijuana industry welcomed the news.

“The historic nature of this vote cannot be overstated," said Neal Levine, CEO of the Cannabis Trade Federation. "For the first time, a chamber of Congress has declared that the federal government should defer to state cannabis laws.”

The bill had bipartisan sponsorship coming from Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Tom McClintock (R-CA).

“I do not believe the federal government has that authority, but even if it did, states should determine their own criminal justice policies,” wrote Rep. McClintock to his colleagues before the vote. “This is how our constitutional system was designed to function.”

A similar measure failed the floor vote in 2015, but widespread support for legalization has only grown since then.

“The end of marijuana prohibition has never been closer. When Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and a small band of allies first worked on this amendment in 2015, we were told that we didn’t stand a chance,” said the DPA Director of National Affairs, Michael Collins. "But we convinced members this was the right thing to do, and four years on, victory is sweet.”

This isn’t the only victory for sensible drug policy that has recently made its way through the House. On Thursday, the House voted in favor of the establishment of regulations for CBD. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) was also able to divert $5 million from the DEA to opioid treatment programs, but failed to push through a measure that would allow more research on the effects of psychedelics.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter