Don't Giggle: A Sane Marijuana Law Really Passed in the House

If approved by the Senate and signed by President Obama, it will stop the DEA from enforcing federal laws against medical marijuana in states where it is legal.

Hell is still hot. The moon is not blue. America's pigs stand wingless in their pens. No matter. It is a day to be gobsmacked. For in Washington, D.C., where the War on Drugs has steadily escalated for more than three decades, a Republican-controlled House of Representatives Thursday voted to ease up on marijuana prohibition. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, the Republican who represents my home town, sponsored an amendment that prohibits the DEA from arresting medical marijuana patients or providers in states where they're licensed. It passed 219-189.

"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 obtain Obama's signature—to become law," German Lopez reports. Similar amendments have always failed in the past. What changed? Full marijuana legalization in two states, for starters, but Aaron Huston says that wasn't the key factor:

As of this writing, Americans in 30 states live under medical marijuana laws. That number will likely increase to 33 within a matter of days as governors in three states are expected to sign new medical marijuana laws in Florida, Iowa, and Minnesota. That means the number of Americans who live in states with medical marijuana laws has doubled to 60% as compared with 29% in 2012 when the last vote occurred. While a congressperson may not always be inclined to support her state’s medical marijuana law, protecting constituents should be a powerful motivating factor, especially when some are young children living with debilitating epilepsy-related conditions that can be helped by the non-psychoactive Charlotte’s Web cannabis oil. And for the first time, ultra-conservative states such as Alabama, Mississippi, and Utah will appear in the list of states protected by the medical marijuana amendment.

That is to say, there are states where marijuana for medical purposes isn't legal, but where there's a movement to permit a "low THC/high CBD" strain of the drug for certain sick children. Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority believes that movement was indirectly responsible for the outcome of the vote. "Lawmakers only recently began hearing stories of the many children whose severe seizures are only relieved by marijuana," he explained. "Being able to list these 'CBD states' in the amendment meant that more members of Congress that represent these states voted yes than otherwise would have."

The Democrat-controlled Senate won't mess this up, right? President Obama won't veto it, will he? If and when the bill reaches him in the Oval Office, he should Just. Say. Yes.

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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