Congress Misled by Justice Department on Marijuana Vote

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Associate August 6, 2015

    As first reported by Marijuana.com, a Justice Department internal memo distributed to U.S. House Representatives last year misinformed members on the scope of a medical marijuana amendment they were voting on.

    Last year, lawmakers approved 219 to 189 an amendment aimed at prohibiting the Department of Justice from using funds to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws.

    We have now learned that in the days before this vote, Justice Department officials distributed “informal talking points” incorrectly warning members that the amendment could “in effect, limit or possibly eliminate the Department’s ability to enforce federal law in recreational marijuana cases as well.” The realization came from a footnote contained in the memo stating that the talking points previously released were, “intended to discourage the passage of the rider but does not reflect our current thinking.”

    The talking points seemed to have an effect on several members, who prior to the final vote on the amendment, argued against it claiming the “amendment as written would tie the DEA’s hands beyond medical marijuana.” Representative Andy Harris (R-MD) went on to claim, “The problem is that the way the amendment is drafted, in a state like Maryland which has medical marijuana, if we ever legalized it, the amendment would stop the DEA from going after more than medical marijuana.”

    These statements coupled with the rest of the long debate that took place before the amendment, clearly signal that lawmakers on both sides of the argument believed the amendment to prohibit federal interference in states with medical marijuana.

    However, in a very narrow interpretation of the amendment, the Justice Department memo claims that the restriction of federal funds for the use of interfering in state-sanctioned medical marijuana programs is strictly for states and state officials implementing the laws themselves. That is to say, the federal government would still be allowed to arrest and prosecute people who grow marijuana and operate dispensaries but the state officials issuing the licenses are protected from federal intrusion. This explains the continued action taken by the federal government against individuals in states with legal medical marijuana laws on the books.

    The same amendment protecting medical marijuana states from federal intervention was passed again this year with a larger margin of support, 242-186.

    Representatives Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Farr (D-CA) (sponsors of the medical marijuana amendment) requested last week the Department of Justice’s inspector general hold an internal investigation into the continued action taken by the federal government. They feel Congress has made it clear by passing the amendment two years in a row, federal funds should no longer be used to prosecute individuals acting in compliance with their state laws.

    Currently 23 states and the District of Columbia have passed medical marijuana laws. Check out our State Info page to check on your state’s current marijuana laws.


    22 responses to “Congress Misled by Justice Department on Marijuana Vote”

    1. The apartment outsider says:

      We need to rewrite this law 1 to clarify the correct spelling of marijuana, and 2 to remove anyone’s ability to “interpret” it. It needs to be clear the DOJ cannot allocate ANY funds or personnel, to pursuing marijuana in ANY form I.E flower, edibles or concentrates in states that have proposed, voted and passed medical marijuana or/and recreational marijuana into state law. PERIOD!!!

      We are at a point in this country, where this type of rhetoric needs to be acknowledged, and those responsible for administering it need to be brought to light and held accountable.

      This excuse of “our interpretation” is a clear intentional deviation of what the law was intended to accomplish. With 2 of the creators speaking out against the “interpretation” of the DOJ also requesting a investigation into the DOJ’s handling of this matter. This is reason enough for myself and I’m sure others, to formally require/request for the resignation of thoes involved. It’s not the DOJ’s job to interpret laws, but uphold the laws as they are written.

      The aparently inability to read should be enough for termination of employment. And the same goes to elected officials A.K.A Chris Christy. The people voted for medical marijuana. Your job is to monitor the implementation and oversee it’s continuation unless the people vote it out. You obviously have no interest, or ability to serve the people due to your personal beliefs, this is a clear conflict of interest for your job title. Your recent flip flop on this matter this week only goes to show you are clearly out for yourself, in a half-assed attempt to gain mainstream votes in the upcoming election.

      I look forward for the next 8-12 years as the baby boomers, and their 1920’s political mindset retire or expire. I’m also looking forward to a younger generation saturation of all branches of government.

    2. YearofAction says:

      There is a better name for medical marijuana – cannabis.
      There is an ‘other’ name for recreational marijuana – cannabis smoke.
      There is a Constitutionally valid definition for marijuana:

      The term “marijuana” means all parts of the smoke produced by the combustion of the plant Cannabis sativa L.

      This year is a good time to make this definition a reality.

    3. knowa1@centurylink.net says:

      How do we un entrance the prohibition industry which cost society more than $50 Billion a year and is History’s most golden cash cow. That’s a lot of high paying jobs that would vanish overnight with no replacements job other than what will come with canna prosperity. The demographics have changed and the internet has exposed the truth about cannabis prohibition. There is no where in the constitution that makes prohibition legal or is there any scientific justification for its prohibition. Maintaining prohibition is Constitutional treason

    4. Julian says:

      Good work Dianne… There goes the DOJ again, breaching the balance of powers, breaking the law by LYING to CONGRESS, and yet all we get is the fox in charge of the hen house? We’re all sick and tired of the DOJ getting to police itself through the Controlled Substance Act while they lie to and pay off Congress who should be performing their legislative duty to regulate U.S. Drug Policy. I am encouraged by Loretta Lynch fighting to end racially disproportionate incarceration, but all I expect from an inspector general in this “investigation” is “How can we help you (DEA, et al) to cover up this lie so we can do business as usual, deny the obvious medical efficacy of marijuana, deny the safe healthy recreational use of marijuana and deny the support of public education from its revenue and continue to pursue civil asset forfeitures without due process?”

      As we celebrate 17 years of the Daily Show ending with Jon Stewart, i’ll leave it at this; here is your “moment of zen…”


    5. Don from texas says:

      I take offense at the baby boomer comment. I am one and also a republican. Myself and all like me who I know. Would love the government to get out of the marijuana regulating business entirely.

    6. RUT says:

      Dear “Apartment Outsider, The baby boomers are not your enemy we started the pot movement in the 50’s 60’s 70” 80″s on to this day. I do believe the pioneers of NORML are boomers. I think you are misguided in that thought line. Some Boomers are opposition now just like back then. The opposition was fed government propaganda to reenforce their misguided beliefs way back then just like today. JUST WATCH WOODSTOCK THE DOCUMENTARY AND ALL YOU WILL SEE ARE BOOMERS! I believe the boomers are a silent majority helping the pot cause.

    7. TheOracle says:

      Ditto on making the law clearer. In the meantime, state workers can’t be prosecuted so states can implement their brick and mortar seed to sale plans. It’s just that the non-government workers, according to the DEA interpretation, are still prey for the feds, although for the life of me I can’t figure out how the feds think they have the personnel and funds to put the marijuana genie back in the bottle. No way. The feds are just picking on people, for whatever reason, and it’s selective enforcement of federal prohibition because the feds DO NOT have the man/woman power and funds to undo legalization.

      I believe Farr & Rohrabacher when they say that their intent was to stop the feds from spending any funds interfering with the states, not just government workers in states that have legalized marijuana in one form of the other. Any clarification of the law needs to result in more cuts and much deeper cuts in the budget of the DEA and the other federal agencies who are f***ing with the cannabis community.

      This federal misinterpretation of Farr-Rohrabacher demonstrate that if the next president is a prohibitionist, or is namby-pamby in maintaining the momentum toward legalization, they think they can actually roll back legalization and fill up the prisons and give their budgets a hell of a lot more padding from seizing people’s assets.

      Please pass additional legislation that fixes their asses, makes it crystal clear they can’t spend any funds in legal states even on non-government workers, can’t go after patients and everyday folks either.

    8. Mark I. says:

      Cannabis prohibition proponents are perpetuating the deaths of millions by the healthcare professionals using petrol-chemical based prescribed medications making millions at the cost of patient and caregiver controls. Just continue paying the insurance premiums for the blood of innocents. Malpractice insurance does not forgive their guilt.

    9. Dave Evans says:

      ‘”The term “marijuana” means all parts of the smoke produced by the combustion of the plant Cannabis sativa L.’

      Wow! That makes no sense at all! Are you aware that many varieties of Cannabis sativa are not able to produce a “marijuana smoke”??? In fact almost none? If you want to change the definition, it has to at least make some kind of sense. There has already been enough bullshit spouted about marijuana, and a really confusing definition will not help clear up anything.

      Nearly everyone “smoking marijuana” are smoking Cannabis indica and maybe some hybrids with sativa. Sativa is a hemp plant and it has already been effectively “descheduled” by this law: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/16/hemp-kentucky_n_5684531.html

      So folks, please note, while they always say hemp and marijuana are the same species, they are not. All that happened was some sativa/indica hybrids were backcrossed into indica to make it a bigger plant. The genetics of marijuana plants is nearly all indica, not sativa!

      This switcheroo was done to get hemp eliminated from supplying the market with fiber and other products and has literally nothing to due with marijuana and issues related to marijuana. It was just two bad ideas married to each other for immoral support.

    10. mexweed says:

      @YearofAction, would urge not wasting any more precious time trying to “motivate” the dead horse of “Marijuana Combustion” when it is possible to 90%-combustion-free VAPETOKE dried herbal bwdfleur with a cheapo flexdrawtube one-hitter you can hand(f)make with #40 screen and $1.29 worth of parts now lying forgotten in your garage.

      If you want to go after some really treacherous and harmful verbiage conspiracy, let’s take down the UN “Narcotics Convention” now continuing to detail sanctions against cannabis which no scientist since ’77 has dared call a narcotic. (Oh, I forgot about Drug Enforcement, now which drug do you think they are trying to enforce? Don’t get me started on Criminal Justice…)