I’ve been wondering how long it would take the huge shift in public opinion about cannbis to penetrate Capitol Hill. The answer – somewhat to my surprise – turns out to be “Not that long.” Yesterday the House passed the Rohrbacher Amendment, protecting state “medical marijuana” laws against federal enforcement efforts:
None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.
The lawyers will have to tell us what that means, assuming that the amendment makes it through the Senate. Surely it can’t immunize all pot-growing and pot-selling activity in those states. Would it immunize any such activity in compliance with state law? Or simply forbid DoJ from attacking state regulatory processes – e.g., by seeking to enjoin license applicants from using their state licenses – which (AFAIK) DoJ hasn’t done?
But whatever the policy details, the political fact is astounding. Rohrbacher found 49 Republican votes to add to 170 Democrats, winning the rollcall by a decisive 219-189. (172 Republicans, including Cantor and Ryan, and 17 Democrats, not including any of the Democratic leadership, voted against. The Speaker, as usual, didn’t vote.) As Jacob Sullum notes, this should have been an easy vote for Republicans who actually believe in states’ rights and limited government. What that says about the 77% of the Republican caucus that voted “No,” and about the libertarians who stay loyal to the Red team, is left as an exercise for the student.
The times, they are a-changin’.