Follow us:

Opinion Northwest

Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

June 2, 2014 at 7:30 AM

Is Congress finally catching on about medical marijuana?

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.gallup marijuana

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.

Comments

COMMENTS

No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.



The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►