U.S. Representatives Vote to Protect States’ Rights By Skyler Cannabaceae
The U.S. House of Representatives delighted cannabis advocates by passing a Department of Justice funding bill with amendments attached requiring that none of the money can be used by the Drug Enforcement Agency to impede state regulated medical cannabis, hemp growing and industrial hemp research.
documenting these benefits has often been hampered by federal barriers.” Since 1999, federal law only allows research to be conducted using the cannabis grown at the University of Mississippi and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Since NIDA has always been firmly opposed to cannabis use, it only approves research if the study’s goal is to find harm caused by cannabis, not the plant’s medicinal benefits.
The future of the amendments is hazy since the bill still needs to be reconciled with the Senate version before it lands on President Barack Obama’s desk. Many Congressional members are not waiting around. After “For the first time, a passage of the bill in the House on May 30, they began pushing the Obama administration to adopt the changes. majority of federal The House approved the medical marijuana amendment to H.R. 4660 with a majority of yes votes from 170 Democrats and 49 Republicans. One of those Republicans was California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who put forward the amendment. “None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of …” the amendment begins. It goes on to list each state with current MMJ laws and then adds “… to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.” While only a single-year appropriations bill, which means the same amendments have to be re-approved next year, it sends a message loud and clear to the DEA: Hands off medicinal cannabis. To underscore the importance of the issue, House members sent an open letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell on June 17.
lawmakers are acknowledging that states that seek to regulate the controlled use of medicinal marijuana ought to be allowed to act in a manner that is free from federal interference.”
Thirty Representatives signed the bipartisan message, led by Rohrabacher, Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore), H. Morgan Griffith (R-Va) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill). It requested that policy be changed so that any “non-National Institutes of Health funded researcher” will be able to access cannabis for research, so long as each one meets normal conditions required for drug testing on the federal, state and local levels. “We believe the widespread use of medical marijuana should necessitate research into what specific relief it offers and how it can be delivered for different people and different conditions.” The letter went a step further stating, “[T]he scientific research clearly
54 July 2014
Commenting on the vote, NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri said, “For the first time, a majority of federal lawmakers are acknowledging that states that seek to regulate the controlled use of medicinal marijuana ought to be allowed to act in a manner that is free from federal interference.” As the fight for medical marijuana rages on, hemp seems to be having an easier time garnering political support. Rohrabacher’s MMJ amendment snuck into the bill with a simple majority of 53 percent. Two hemp-related amendments proposed by Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky) were approved by more representatives. Massie’s amendment to protect the “Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research” passed with 60 percent while Bonamici’s amendment protecting the cultivation and use of hemp for industrial purposes made it into the bill with 58 percent in support.
U.S. hemp farmers and researchers ran into problems with federal red tape recently. The DEA stopped two shipments of hemp seed that were bound for Kentucky and Colorado, both of which now have laws making hemp legal. The seed comes from Canada because it is not currently legal to use seed produced in the U.S. That is something the amendments would change. The federal government held up the shipment to Kentucky, but eventually sent it on its way. In Colorado, Jason Lauve of Hemp Cleans is hoping that the seeds arrive in time for a good harvest, but says the shipment is still being detained. Lauve told THC that he is sending a letter requesting the seeds and says Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo) is assisting him in his efforts. Polis supported the hemp and medical cannabis amendments. “History was made by politicians from both sides of the aisle, as we now have a majority of Congress on the record saying that states have the prerogative to regulate marijuana as they see fit,” Polis told CQ Roll Call. “I don’t know where this bill is going, but it sends a message.”