The Republican-led House of Representatives passed the measure late
on Thursday as part of a larger bipartisan funding bill. The measure
still needs approval in the Democrat-controlled Senate, and then to
be signed into law by President Barack Obama.
Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican who offered
the amendment, called its passage "a victory for states' rights, for
the doctor-patient relationship, for compassion, for fiscal
It seeks to "prohibit the use of funds to prevent certain states
from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use,
distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana,"
according to the amendment, which passed by a 219-189 vote.
Minnesota this week became the latest of the more than 20 states to
put in place laws permitting marijuana use to treat conditions such
as cancer and epilepsy.
"Federal tax dollars will no longer be wasted arresting seriously
ill medical marijuana patients and those who provide to them," said
Dan Riffle, federal policy director for the Marijuana Policy
Project, a group that backs wider marijuana use.
Polls show a growing number of Americans accept wider use of the
drug, while states also see it an a potential new source of tax and
other revenue to fill coffers drained by the recent economic
But some state governors and others see legalizing marijuana as
taking its acceptance a step too far. Some critics also worry that
marijuana's wider use is outpacing the regulations needed to control
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Thursday's amendment is part of a larger bill to fund the Department
of Justice next fiscal year, but must still be squared with the
Senate's version of the spending bill.
While the federal government still classifies marijuana as an
illegal narcotic, the Obama administration has signaled willingness
to allow looser enforcement, including encouraging banks to support
"This is a historic vote, and it's yet another sign that our federal
government is shifting toward a more sensible marijuana policy," the
Marijuana Policy Project's Riffle said.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey, editing by G Crosse)
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