U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher has introduced a pro-medical marijuana amendment at least seven times since 2003, and each time it has gone down. Consistent with Rohrabacher’s libertarian politics, the amendment would simply de-fund Department of Justice enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act in medical marijuana states.
It went down 152 to 273 in 2003. As recently as 2012, it failed 163 to 262. As recently as last month, the House voted down a bill allowing veterans to discuss medical marijuana with their doctor.
On Friday, the libertarian-liberal alliance over marijuana reform reached, as Rohrabacher said, “a turning point.” The same amendment passed 219 to 189, with 170 Democrats and 49 Republicans, with a liberal-libertarian block of supporters. In a statement, Rohrabacher, R-Calif., said it was “a victory for states’ rights, for the doctor-patient relationship, for compassion, for fiscal responsibility.”
The trend here is inescapable. Twenty eight states now allow medical marijuana. A majority of Americans favor full legalization.
Yet the lengthy debate pitted three Republican doctors – marijuana skeptics Reps. Andy Harris of Maryland and John Fleming of Louisiana versus Paul Broun of Georgia, who co-sponsored Rohrabacher’s amendment. Harris said:
“(Marijuana) is not medicine. This would be like me as a physician saying, ‘you know, I think you need some penicillin. Go chew on some mold.’
Rohrabacher, thankfully, channeled the belief of most Americans.
This is the most incredible debate we have had. Over half the States have already gone through every argument that was presented and decided against what you just heard. There are doctors at every one of those States that participated in a long debate over this and found exactly the opposite of what we have heard today. Some people are suffering and if a doctor feels that he needs to prescribe something to alleviate that suffering, it is immoral for this government to get in the way, and that is what is happening.
Among the minds swayed by the shifting public opinion? Rep. Doc Hastings, the Pasco Republican. He was one of just to committee chairman to buck leadership and vote for Rohrabacher’s amendment. He’d voted against it in in 2003 and in 2007.
He didn’t issue a statement on his changed vote, and his spokesman didn’t respond to a question. Perhaps the change was because Hastings is retiring and finally voted his conscience.