U.S. Congress Backs Dana Rohrabacher's Bid To Ban Marijuana Raids

U.S. Congress Backs Dana Rohrabacher's Bid To Ban Marijuana Raids

Despite our many differences with Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) over the past several years--global warming/a.ka. "dinosaur farts," the Taliban, sloppy housekeeping to name a few--we've always admired his opposition to the federal government's heavy-handed prohibition on marijuana. With more than 20 states and the District of Columbia allowing medical marijuana usage, and Colorado and Washington states having passed recreational pot laws, a majority of Americans want weed to be legal.

And with a vote on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday, Americans are now closer than ever to actually seeing that happen. Both Democrats and Republicans came together to pass a bipartisan appropriations bill spearheaded by Rohrabacher that would prohibit the government from using federal funds to "prevent [states] from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana."

Medical marijuana activists are hailing the news as proof that America is finally ready to ditch its decades-long war on weed. "The general sense is that there's a lot of momentum around this medical-marijuana bill, in part because of all the states--especially including conservative ones--that are now in play," Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, told the Daily Beast, adding that Congrress is fed up with DEA Director Michele Leonhart's refusal to fall in line with the Obama Administration's recent dialing down of the war on pot. "She's living in a different world; she's stuck in the 1980s," Piper argued. "I think she's the last true believer in the war on drugs."

Rohrabacher's spending amendment now goes to the Senate, where it will pass a much more important challenge. But not everyone is so sure that the bill, even if it does reach Obama's desk, will do what legalization supporters hope it will do. In fact, a close look at the language of the bill shows that it doesn't contain any specific language banning the DEA from conducting raids of dispensaries or cultivation sites, despite all the headlines celebrating this notion.

"Legally, I'm not sure how much (if any) protection the amendment would actually provide," argues law professor Alex Kreit. "Putting aside the question of how to ensure compliance with the restriction, the measure only stops the DOJ from using funds to 'prevent' states from 'implementing their own' medical marijuana laws. It's far from clear that medical marijuana raids and prosecutions would be covered by this language."

However Kreit remains optimistic about the bill's potential impact. "[I]n this case, I think getting lost in the legal language would be to miss the true impact of this development," he wrote. "The amendment is not meant to change federal drug laws. It is a signal (and a strong one) to the DEA and DOJ that Congress is unhappy about federal interference with state medical marijuana laws."

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Email: nschou@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @NickSchou. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!


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