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House of Representatives Votes Down Defunding Medical Marijuana Raids [FEATURE]

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #733)
Politics & Advocacy

Four US representatives introduced an amendment to the Justice Department appropriations bill, House Resolution 5326, which would bar the agency from spending funds to attack medical marijuana operations in states where it is legal. The bill was being considered Wednesday, before failing on a voice vote Wednesday evening.

A roll call vote was taken later, with the amendment failing 163-262 -- 50 Democrats opposed it and 28 Republicans supported it. While the total number of "ayes" was almost identical to the last time the amendment was offered several years ago, that reflects the larger number of Republicans in the House. Both Democrats and Republicans voted for the amendment in greater percentages than in the past. [Ed: We will publish analysis of the voting breakdown this week.]

Rep. Hinchey addresses a 2005 press conference on medical marijuana, as Montel Williams awaits his turn at the podium.
The House heard Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jerold Nadler (D-NY), and Steve Cohen (D-TN) speak in favor of the amendment, while the most notable opposition came from committee Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA).

Hinchey was a cosponsor of the amendment, as was Rohrabacher, of Huntington Beach, and his California colleagues Reps. amie Farr (D-Carmel) and Tom McClintock (R-Auburn).

As a presidential candidate, then-Senator Obama said his administration would not use its resources to undermine state medical marijuana laws, especially if people were following their state’s law. At first, the administration lived up to his word. Shortly after he was elected president, the Department of Justice issued a memorandum to US Attorneys urging them not to waste taxpayer dollars and law enforcement resources arresting and prosecuting people following their state’s medical marijuana law.

But according to the medical marijuana defense group Americans for Safe Access, the DEA has undertaken more than 200 raids against medical marijuana dispensaries and associated businesses since it took office in 2009, with most of them coming in the past year. Beginning in March 2011 with raids on dispensaries across Montana, the Justice Department has shifted its stance on medical marijuana, becoming much more aggressive in enforcing federal law.

It's not just the DEA. Federal prosecutors in dispensary states, such as California, Colorado, and Montana, have also been aggressively targeting medical marijuana operations. They typically try to intimidate dispensary operators and/or their landlords in voluntarily closing their doors by issuing threat letters in which they warn that operators and/or landlords could face civil asset forfeiture or even criminal prosecution if they do not comply.

The threat letters are based on arbitrary standards having nothing to do with state medical marijuana laws. Instead, federal prosecutors typically allege that targeted dispensaries are within 1,000 feet of a school or playground. There is no federal law disallowing dispensaries in those areas, but there is a federal sentencing enhancement for drug law violations within them, and federal prosecutors are using that statute as a measuring rod for deciding which dispensaries to pick on.

The federal crackdown has, to some extent, worked. The Montana medical marijuana distribution scene was all but wiped out by federal raids and prosecutions, dozens of dispensaries have been forced out of business in Colorado, and more than 200 have closed in California.

But medical marijuana supporters and advocates have been mobilizing their forces, too. The crackdown has been criticized by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and drug reform friend Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), as well as elected officials in all three states and local Democratic Party organizations in the San Francisco Bay area.

And this week, the fight came to the House.

"It is time for the federal government to stop targeting the legal vendors that are providing safe access to this treatment, and instead focus limited resources on those who sell illicit drugs," Farr said in a statement. "The amendment I will offer with my colleagues will work to assure funds under the Department of Justice do not target the safe access to treatment patients need."

A plethora of medical marijuana and drug reform groups and even labor unions were mobilizing their members to contact Congress this week in a bid to show popular support for reining in the feds. Among them was the Drug Policy Alliance.

"Both Democrats and Republicans are telling the Obama administration: enough is enough, stop wasting taxpayer money to undermine state medical marijuana laws, said Bill Piper, the group's director of national affairs. "President Obama needs to realize his assault on patient access is not just immoral -- but a serious political miscalculation. For more than a decade, polling has consistently shown that 70% to 80% of Americans support medical marijuana."

For the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which represents dispensary workers in California and Colorado, smothering the federal crackdown is not just about compassion, it's about jobs and the economy.

"The UFCW supports the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment," the group said in a statement Wednesday. "Medical marijuana laws have been enacted to allow patients safe and legal access to appropriately produced and compliantly dispensed medical marijuana in the safest possible environment and UFCW members in the medical cannabis industry work in accordance with state laws to provide safe and effective medical treatment for persons suffering from cancer and other serious medical conditions.

"At a time when millions of hardworking Americans are out of work and still struggling to make ends meet, the use of taxpayer money for the misguided targeting and prosecution of an industry that provides Americans with good middle class jobs with benefits is counterproductive. The US Justice Department should not use the fewer resources it has to focus on targeting patients and dispensaries abiding by state law. That is a problem that the Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment will solve and the UFCW wholeheartedly supports it," the union said.

The political calculus behind the Obama administration's crackdown on medical marijuana is unclear. What is certain is that the opposition to it is broad and cuts across party lines.

"History is calling on President Obama to protect terminally ill patients from suffering, and he is dangerously close to falling on the wrong side," said Piper. "He will continue to pay a political price as long as his administration continues to waste taxpayer money undermining state law."

The Obama administration may have won a victory Wednesday night, but even victories come with a cost.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


David762 (not verified)

I fail to comprehend how such an amendment to slash funding for federal MMJ raids can be anything other than political posturing, and ineffective. Don't misunderstand -- I welcome this legislation, if only to provide some basis for open political debate.

The Feds (& State, & Local) have other funding sources that are immune to the political process, by design. It's called "asset forfeiture", both civil & criminal, and it amounts to $Billions per year. Until asset forfeiture is stripped from the political lexicon, legislation such as HR Amendment 5326 will be moot.

It would be far more preferable to see Congressional legislation introduced to, at a minimum, shift the CSA Schedule of (whole plant) cannabis from [I] to [III], where Big Pharma's synthetic cannabis products reside, or even off-Schedule since cannabis is far, far safer (LD50) than even aspirin, an OTC product.

This is something that any USA President could order administratively, directed to the DHHS & DEA, especially considering the new "Unitary Executive" powers surrendered unconstitutionally to the President from the Congress. Follow-up Congressional legislation should then proceed to alter any / all foreign treaties tied to the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotics. That Obama has refused to even consider such a move, it belies Obama's false self-professed populist meme -- he's a globalist authoritarian.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 10:19pm Permalink
Steve Schumacher (not verified)

In reply to by David762 (not verified)

I agree with most of what you say.

The DEA still holds the cards and will control inter- and intrastate commerce of any controlled substance. 

Rescheduling marijuana from a CSI into lower tiers will merely land  it in a lobster trap which enables the DEA to arbitrarily determine "legitimate medical need in the course of professional practice" - slippery language in the Controlled Substance Act that allows the agency to target doctors who already prescribe legal pain medications. Once these physicians are investigated not just for violating this premise, but assuring the DEA they are not - they are subject to  very severe criminal, licensure and regulatory sanctions, including the DEA's obligatory asset forfeiture without due process, ludicrous drug trafficking charges  and an inexorable DOJ drug witch hunt.

Is this what you want for medical marijuana?

The fundamental problem is the Controlled Substance Act which grants the DEA and DOJ powers to interfere in medicine and to decide medical treatment.




Thu, 05/10/2012 - 4:22am Permalink
David762 (not verified)

In reply to by Steve Schumacher (not verified)

When the Controlled Substances Act was passed, cannabis was not even considered to be placed in a Schedule classification. It was the Nixon regime, thoroughly annoyed with the anti-war movement, that placed cannabis "temporarily" under the CSA. As an extra "twist of the knife", cannabis was placed on Schedule [1], in keeping with Anslinger's long campaign in support of Rockefeller's Big Oil, Big Pharma, and Big Medicine agendas, as well as Hearst's wood pulp industry. As John D. Rockefeller was fond of saying, "competition is a sin".

Nixon commissioned a thorough scientific study of cannabis and it's effect upon society, fully believing that Shafer's Commission would return plentiful data to justify keeping cannabis illegal. When the report was completed, it immediately went into the circular file when the study recommended decriminalization or outright re-legalization. And cannabis has remained a Schedule [I] substance ever since, even after 2 separate DEA Administrative Law judges ordered the DEA to reschedule cannabis.

Ideally, cannabis should be re-legalized, like tomatoes. California has a new proposition that should be on the November 2012 ballot to make cannabis "legal like wine", which is close enough, compared to what is in existence today. What the MMJ movement has done is to vastly improve the quality and variety of cannabis available for medical purposes, especially when compared to the cannabis smuggled across our southern border.

This brings up another point. Over 40,000 Mexicans have been killed over the last 6 years in the Mexican government's war against the drug cartels. How many people have died violently in the importation of Corona beer? How many $Billions have been spent in the war on drugs? How many millions of people have had their lives ruined because cannabis was made illegal? And how many $Billions of drug cartel funds have been funneled through the Wall Street banksters? Considering that corruption of government officials was rampant under 10 years of Alcohol Prohibition, does anyone believe that such corruption isn't 1,000 times worse after 70 years of cannabis prohibition? Re-legalizing cannabis would remove a significant portion of the profit from the drug cartels, and deprive "our" many USA government officials of their extra "campaign contributions". Money is the "mother's milk" of the political class, and widespread corruption provides its' own inertia to change in drug laws, even without crony corporate interests at stake.

Thu, 05/10/2012 - 6:46am Permalink

How can you say that "the federal crackdown has, to some extent, worked" when all that's happened is  patients have switched from buying legal marijuana to buying illegal marijuana? The federal crackdown will have worked when there isn't a stick of marijuana left in this country. And realistically given the results of the last seventy years that will be NEVER!

Thu, 05/10/2012 - 3:42am Permalink
David762 (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous0 (not verified)

Many of these Democrats want the voters to perceive them as populists, while their voting records indicate that they are authoritarians. They voted FOR the Patriot Act(s), FOR unjustified wars overseas, FOR protecting the Telecom companies from civil liabilities, FOR the Military Commissions Act, and FOR NDAA 2012. Many also voted FOR ramping up the War OF Drugs / War ON People.

They are not "friends" of populists & libertarians, OR of greater individual freedoms & liberties, OR even the Constitution. Quite the opposite -- they have broken their oaths of office to "protect & defend" the Constitution. What they are friends & allies of are the crony corporate interests, and dedicated to fattening their own wallets.

And like Obama, they power up the reality distortion field to conceal their corruption, and their authoritarian natures, from the "sleeping" voters, while portraying themselves as populists. Since they are not Jedi Masters, the trance they induce in the peons doesn't last.

Thu, 05/10/2012 - 12:28pm Permalink
William Aiken (not verified)

With Gary Johnson securing the Libertarian nomination for president, we have a great opportunity to bring the many issues concerning marijuana to a national debate. It hinges on the possibility of Johnson getting an invitation to the debates. Even if he is denied a spot on that stage, it's important to point out the monopoly the two main parties have over the process of deciding who gets to participate in the debates. 

At the Libertarian convention in Las Vegas,Johnson spoke glowingly of how much it would mean to his campaign if he were to share the stage with Obama and Romney. So I am certain he and his staff are going through the appropriate channels to apply with the Presidential debate committee. Since he most likely won't be invited, it's important to publicize the reasons given if the committee denies his application. The public is generally unaware of that the debates are rigged by the Democrats and Republicans to ensure their stranglehold on the process. This corrupt system won't change until the media shines a bright light on the subject. If Ross Perot could get into the 1992 debates, Johnson ought to be permitted to take part so the voters will have real, distinct choices when they pull the lever.


Thu, 05/10/2012 - 11:06am Permalink
daveshroomer (not verified)

This ;Congressional Reform Act of 2012   , is a good place for the people to Start and The Fraudulent Government to End  !

Thu, 05/10/2012 - 7:51pm Permalink
Dennis Pielack (not verified)

How much courage does it take to raid a drug cartel operation? A lot! We all know the risk to human life in such an operation.

How much courage does it take to raid a medical marijuana dispensary? NONE! DEA and Justice Department resources are expended on cowardly pursuits.

Obama reached a new low and so did his Republican and Democrat marijuana prohibition supporters for failing to pass HR 5326. Ron Paul is the only candidate that respects the medical needs of all citizens. 

Thu, 05/10/2012 - 12:46pm Permalink
Dennis Pielack (not verified)

How much courage does it take to raid a drug cartel? A lot!

How much courage does it take to raid a medical marijuana dispensary? NONE!

It is clear why Obama chooses to raid medical marijuana dispensaries, and why his Republican and Democrat supporters of marijuana prohibition defeated HR 5326. 

Thu, 05/10/2012 - 1:01pm Permalink
daveshroomer (not verified)

 This is where Franks money comes from ;  ,He is another Corporate Puppet .The Drug War is a War Against the People. The Congressional Reform Act of 2012 is a simple solution to many of the Wrongs in / of / by Our System of Governing . And since Congress obviously doesn't want this ,last month they voted 339-3 in favor of violating the Right of the People to Peaceful Protest . We the People Can/Must initiate and pass 'resolutions' at City and County Government Levels that send a clear message to Our State and Federal Elected Officials which they cannot deny .Tell the ALL of those Carrier Politicians ,from state legislators to the U S Capital , that America is "Not For Sale'' to the highest corporate bidder .United is our First Name .

Thu, 05/10/2012 - 7:43pm Permalink
maxweed (not verified)

1.  Do you mean "career"?

2.  Maybe we're disappointed with Obama, but I suspect the Fed "backlash" on dispensaries has been fed (sorry, Dr. Freud) by widespread disappointment that they went ahead and charged ripoff prices for herb-- in the $ hundreds instead of the $38 predicted by the Rand Corporation (for after legalization, to be sure).

3.  Given the duopoly stranglehold on elections (not just debates) it may be necessary to re-elect the tarnished hero because the Republican base, to which a victorious Republican President would have to cater if Johnson or Paul brought off a "Naderizing" of Obama, is 20 points more anti-legalization than Dem voters.  Either that or hurry up and pass an Emergency Constitutional Amendment with open primary and top-two runoff.

4.  By the way, if my conjecture is right that the BIGGEST enemy of cannabis liberation today is the slavemaster addictive nicotine $igarette companies, then there is the interesting fact that the presumptive Republican candidate, Romney, is a Mormon, and if you look at the rates of $igarette addiction among the states Utah is at or near the bottom.  Mormons apparently know how to protect their children against recruitment into Black Lung $lavery and maybe Romney would stand against his Party and help the Church REDUCE $igarette corporation profits nationwide so they have less "campaign money" to buy favors from Republican politicians.

Imagine a Romney administration and a Republican House led by puffsuckin' John Boehner (uses a low-tar brand).  How will they decide about cannabis?  Legal herb would mean there is no longer reason to fear a rogue cop or your Mom finding your ONE-HITTER, and Boehner's advisory council members Bruce Gates (Philip Morris) and John H. Fish (R J Reynolds) would scream bloody murder because Dosage Restriction Utensil use might flood over from jubilant cannabis users into the mass population of 40 million packbuyers.

"If he can't make Boehner QUIT,

don't vote for Mitt!

If 'Pubs don't inhale Mary,

hold nose, vote Barry!"

Thu, 05/10/2012 - 10:28pm Permalink
kickback (not verified)

Yea , I saw`d it on C-SPAN . One republican compared this legislation with oxycontin addiction and sex trafficking . Imagine that . I forget his name , but he spoke right before the voice vote . It was reefer madness in action . Republicans love reefer madness . Stay tuned .

Fri, 05/11/2012 - 1:10am Permalink
michael blake (not verified)

really you would rather vote fore obummer. sorry i will vote for someone that has been fighting for are invidual freedom and liberty. ron paul would help this country to get back to are founding fathers the constuition. google what Ron Paul. and dont be a media sheep.

Fri, 05/11/2012 - 5:29am Permalink
drmaddogs (not verified)

Sure wish the proponents would go the next step. Get it out there what the individual Representatives have in regards to contributors that are in opposition to MMJ,MJ and hemp. Till people realize the ACTUAL.. financial rewards the Reps receive for following a course of voting, the voters will never understand the hipocracy or misdirection from the politicians regarding why they vote on issues.

Left to Media, the propagandists will continue to make the voting record appear to be a "moral" one, a "sensible" one. 

One thing Americans still have a disdain for(whether they do anything about it is another issue, lol) Bullshit and cheats.

Like when the "... several last DEA heads stood against MJ legalization..." last years news representation, why were no exclaims of how 2 of the four "last heads" were CEOs or leaders in companies after being in the DEA, that depend on the Drug War and Fed funding to sell to locals equipment for fighting the drug war?

Carbon Cars is a great example... bullet proof car Mfging from an ex DEA head. They will depend on the Drug war escalating..for there to be more violence, not less. Yes.. one could say that Ex-DEA head is only predicting future events. But how can assuring a war continues(Influence of future events to insure capital gains) be classified as predition...this is Bullshi*.

This situation and nondisclosure of, like every other opportunity lost by the proponents, assures a market place(And the Drug War is a market place, make no mistake) is owned by the very people that capitolize on the Drug War staying in place.

Make connections unavoidably obvious and the War goes away. 

Sat, 05/12/2012 - 10:59am Permalink

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