In a rather astonishing turn of events, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment to an omnibus spending bill that would order the DEA not to interfere with medical marijuana use and sale in states where it is legal. The vote was even relatively easy, 219-189.
The US House of Representatives late Thursday passed a measure that would prohibit the federal government from interfering with states’ medical marijuana laws.
The bill is the first time in history that any chamber of Congress has acted to protect medical marijuana businesses and users. It also got bipartisan support: 170 Democrats and 49 Republicans voted in favor of the bill.
The measure was attached to a funding bill for several federal agencies, and it blocks the Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration from using funds to prevent states from implementing their own medical marijuana laws.
The measure, however, will require approval from the Senate and President Barack Obama. The Senate is expected to pass its own funding bill, so the medical marijuana amendment will need to survive through both chambers’ reconciliation process — and then obtain Obama’s signature — to become law.
Of the 219 yes votes, 170 of them were Democrats and 49 were Republicans, including some of the most conservative members of Congress (Paul Broun, Steve Stockman). The question of whether it survives a conference committee is really the interesting one. If it does, Obama will almost certainly sign it (he isn’t going to hold up funding for multiple federal agencies to veto the bill over that provision). That could be a big step in the right direction.