- The Washington Times - Friday, June 21, 2019

The House of Representatives advanced a measure Thursday restricting the government’s ability to enforce federal marijuana laws in states defying prohibition.

By a 267-165 vote, the chamber passed a bipartisan amendment offered to an annual spending bill that blocks the Department of Justice of using federal funds to keep states and territories “from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of marijuana.”

Legalization advocates and marijuana industry trade groups celebrated the vote afterward as a historic step toward an outright abolition of federal marijuana prohibition.

Congress has passed similar measures in the past shielding state medical marijuana laws, but the amendment — sponsored by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Oregon Democrat, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C. Democrat, and Rep. Tom McClintock, California Republican — would for the first time extend those protections to cover state recreational marijuana laws as well.

“It’s past time we protect all cannabis programs,” said Mr. Blumenauer, the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. “The federal government is out of touch and our cannabis laws are out of date.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.”

Most states have passed laws legalizing the medicinal use of marijuana, including 10 that have passed recreational laws legalizing non-medical use among adults.

Marijuana is federally prohibited as a Schedule 1 drug, however, placing medical and recreational laws alike at odds with the government’s and effectively putting state-licensed marijuana growers, sellers and other stakeholders at risk of federal prosecution.

“Under the Constitution, the federal government has no right to interfere with the states’ role in administering and enforcing those laws,” said Mr. McClintock. “This amendment represents a simple proposition, that when jurisdictions have the freedom to experiment with divergent policies, other jurisdictions can benefit from their example, good or bad.”

“While I don’t recommend marijuana use, it is a matter of state prerogative and individual choice. The measure simply protects the right of a jurisdiction’s citizens to make decisions within their own boundaries,” Mr. McClintock added.

The full spending bill would authorize the Justice Department’s budget for fiscal year 2020. The Senate has not yet considered a companion measure to the House amendment.

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