Legalization advocates optimistic after U.S. House marijuana votes

US Capitol South
“Marijuana vote-a-rama” took place Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

By Karen Mawdsley

Posted: June 9, 2015

PHOENIX – Marijuana legalization advocates have high hopes after Wednesday’s “marijuana vote-a-rama,” in which a series of marijuana-related amendments garnered bipartisan support in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“I’ve been working on marijuana policy and drug policy for 15 years, and I’ve never been more optimistic,” said Bill Piper, Drug Policy Alliance’s director of national affairs.

Other marijuana reform advocates share Piper’s sentiments.

The House passed several proposed amendments — including ones that would protect state laws on medical marijuana, hemp and cannabidiol — but legalization advocates are perhaps more excited by a proposed amendment that narrowly failed.

The bipartisan McClintock-Polis amendment, introduced by Reps. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.), would have effectively ended federal marijuana prohibition by preventing Drug Enforcement Agency and Department of Justice officials from using federal funds to intervene in state marijuana laws.

McClintock, when addressing the House floor, said the amendment was “not an endorsement of marijuana” but rather one that “addresses a much larger question: whether the federal government has the constitutional authority to dictate a policy to states on matters that occur strictly within their own borders.”

Though the McClintock-Polis amendment fell short — 206 votes in favor to 222 opposed — Piper remains positive, highlighting the recent shift toward bipartisan support of marijuana reform.

“When you look at the votes, when you see you have, you know, liberal Democrats and tea party Republicans voting the same way,” Piper said. “That’s a sign that something big is about to happen.”

 Reach Karen Mawdsley on Twitter @the_mawdster.