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Blumenauer-McClintock Amendment Passes House

Photo Gracie Malley for Cannabis Now


Blumenauer-McClintock Amendment Passes House

Amendment that would block DOJ from interfering with state marijuana laws moves to the Senate.

Congress voted on cannabis’s biggest victory ever on Capitol Hill today.

The Blumenauer-McClintock amendment blocks the Department of Justice from using its resources to go after state-legal marijuana providers. The vote for the amendment is the biggest cannabis vote on Capitol Hill since Congress passed a similar measure in 2014 protecting the medical cannabis industry.

Today’s vote was quick. The effort won by a giant margin of one hundred votes with 267 members of the House voting in support, including numerous Republicans, and 165 members voting against the amendment. The Senate will be voting on the amendment next.

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

The 48 hours leading up to the vote saw everyone on both sides of the argument coming out of the woodwork; we were only missing a Kennedy. While anti-pot Camelot’s own Patrick Kennedy had posted about the failure of New York to legalize on his Twitter, he looks to be avoiding the loss today. And that’s not just my opinion: Kennedy’s Smarter Approaches to Marijuana colleague Kevin Sabet said on Twitter that he expected today’s vote in the House to be brutal. Sabet does expect the resolution to fail in the Senate.

In the lead up to the vote, Sabet and NORML political director Justin Strekal offered competing op-eds in The Hill, one of the most-read publications by Congress.

This morning, Sabet offered readers a tale of the Food and Drug Administration being powerless to stop big marijuana from getting its hands on the youth of America, and being further unable to take action against bad actors without the help of the DOJ.

“The FDA relies on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to take enforcement action when a company refuses to comply with warnings from the FDA,” Sabet wrote, “Should this amendment pass into law, the FDA would be hamstrung as they would not be able to use the DOJ to bring about enforcement action against those who are actively taking advantage of the cover given by this amendment.”

Michael Liszewski has been working on federal cannabis reform for over a decade on Capitol Hill and currently serves as a policy advisor to the Students for Sensible Drug Policy. We asked Liszewski if the FDA would really be as powerless as Sabet claimed should the vote be in its favor.

“The Department of Justice is still free to investigate cannabis cases under the Blumenauer Amendment, they just can’t prosecute without a state law violation,” Liszewski said. “Bad actors violating FDA rules can’t hide behind this amendment, it only protects individuals obeying state law.”

Sabet went on to talk about the super weed of the present not being what you brought to Woodstock, before saying the “pot shops” the amendment protects are linked to higher level of crime. Sabet based the crime claim on a recent National Institute on Drug Abuse study. However, recent research from the Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research reviewed 42 studies on the impact of dispensaries on crime and recently found the exact opposite.

We asked NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri his take on what Sabet wrote.

“It is no surprise our opponents are now twisting themselves into knots to find ways to legitimize the continued practice of our failed policy of prohibition,” Altieri told Cannabis Now in an email. “They know the writing is on the wall and they are losing this fight. As they come to that realization, their arguments are becoming more detached from reality and more desperate.”

Altieri went on to address Sabet’s claims about a powerless FDA.

“Ending the arrest of cannabis consumers is definitively an issue of civil liberties and racial justice and not something we should defer to the FDA on, nor do they seem to have any interest in becoming involved,” he said.

Altieri said prohibitionists are also currently using talking points that are distinctly out of touch with current research.

“For instance, instead of increasing crime, a broad body of research has revealed that the opening of a dispensary has decreased incidents of crime in the neighborhoods they occupy. I guess if I knew the broad majority of the American public was laughing my arguments, I’d throw all kinds of absurd things at the wall too.”

TELL US, do you think the DOJ should let states do their thing when it comes to cannabis?

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