House of Representatives Votes to Protect Legal Cannabis States

In what could prove to be a pivotal vote, the United States House of Representatives approved a measure that would prevent the Department of Justice from intervening in state-level cannabis legal framework.

The United States House of Representatives has pushed for more marijuana reform in 2019 than in any prior year, and just approved a bipartisan measure that protects all state pot programs from federal interference.

The amendment — named the Blumenauer-McClintock-Norton amendment after sponsoring representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), Tom McClintock (R-California) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-Washington, D.C.) — passed 267-165.

Representative Earl Blumenauer
Representative Earl Blumenauer

“It’s past time we protect all cannabis programs,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, co-founder of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus and lead sponsor of the amendment. “We have much more work to do. The federal government is out of touch and our cannabis laws are out of date. I’m pleased that the House agrees and we are able to move forward.”

Thursday’s historic vote marks the first time a congressional chamber has voted to fully protect state-legal cannabis programs from Justice Department interference.

Why This Vote Is So Important

The federal government making an overwhelming statement in favor of state cannabis law autonomy is surprising to say the least. However, it is a move that can have ramifications for cannabis laws across the United States.

“This is the most significant vote on marijuana reform policy that the House of Representatives has ever taken,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal.

Justin Strekal NORML

He continued, “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.”

Unlike the earlier Rohrabacher-Farr and Leahy amendments, which have successfully protected states with medical marijuana programs since 2014, this new amendment would extend protection to states with adult use or recreational marijuana.  This is an unprecedented move for Congress as it is the first time Congress has ever approved such language.

The Implications of The Amendment

The amendment had bi-partisan support as it was sponsored by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Tom McClintock (R-CA). According to Forbes, the amendment would specifically “bar the Department of Justice from spending money to prevent states and territories from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana.”

Allowing states to determine their own cannabis laws is the only fair path forward until the federal government legalizes cannabis outright. Since the path to the full federal legalization of cannabis remains murky, allowing states to legalize cannabis cultivation, sales, and use without fear of federal intervention is drastically important. The attachment of an amendment to do just that to the large-scale appropriations bill for the Fiscal Year 2020 would enshrine these important protections into law.

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