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Rohrabacher Urges Continuation of Medical Marijuana Amendment

Oct 26, 2016

WASHINGTON – Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-CA, and Rep. Sam Farr, D-CA, have written to the House Appropriations Committee urging it to assure their amendment barring the federal government from enforcing marijuana laws in states where the drug is legal for medicinal purposes remains in effect after Dec. 9 when the current funding bill expires.

The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment has been law since 2014, when it was first passed by Congress and signed by the President as part of an omnibus spending package. It was passed again last year with mounting congressional support as more states legalize medical use of the controlled substance. For it to remain legally binding, lawmakers again must include the amendment in the end-of-year spending package for FY17.

The law applies to 42 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico.

“For the past two years suffering Americans,” said Rohrabacher, “have found relief in regulated medical marijuana. These include stroke victims, epileptics, veterans afflicted with post-traumatic stress, and those suffering from the effects of chemotherapy, among many other health-related issues. If the protection afforded by our amendment were to expire, it would amount to an unconscionable infliction of punishment, by their own government, on these unfortunate Americans – many of whom would turn down the vicious path of opioid addiction as an alternative.”

The letter was addressed to the Hon. Hal Rogers and the Hon. Nita Lowey, chairman and ranking member respectively of the Appropriations Committee, and signed by 58 Members of Congress, both Democrat and Republican. The text:


Dear Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Lowey:

            As you and your Senate counterparts negotiate a Fiscal Year 2017 spending package, we would like to express our support for updating and continuing the “Rohrabacher-Farr” medical marijuana provision that has been in effect since December 2014.  In short, the provision prohibits the Department of Justice from using funds to prosecute individuals who are acting in compliance with their state’s medical marijuana laws.  

            The provision has twice before enjoyed broad bipartisan support in the House—first by a vote of 219-189 in May 2014, and most recently by a vote of 242-186 in June 2015.  The Senate Committee on Appropriations also has a history of supporting this legislation, most recently through a bipartisan vote of 21-8 earlier this year.  Since the House has not had the opportunity to express its support for the provision again this year, we write to assure you that there continues to be broad-based support for this policy.

            Maintaining this policy is important to provide patients and state-legal entities with a degree of certainty.  Today, 42 states, D.C., Guam, and Puerto Rico, have all enacted laws that, to varying degrees, permit residents to grow, sell, purchase, and use marijuana for medicinal purposes.  That number is expected to grow in November as citizens go to the polls to vote on initiatives in a handful of states.  We therefore believe this policy is consistent with our constituents’ demands.

            As you may know, the Department of Justice has pursued prosecutions without regard to this provision, claiming that it only prevents prosecutions against states and state employees.  The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently cleared up this confusion on the part of the DOJ by unequivocally stating that “section 542 [Rohrabacher-Farr] prohibits DOJ from spending funds from relevant appropriations acts for the prosecution of individuals who engaged in conduct permitted by the State Medical Marijuana Laws and who fully complied with such laws.”  However, as the judges noted, the spending restriction is only temporary; Congress must act to keep it in place.  Failing to extend this provision would return our constituents to the chaos of uncertainty due to the differences between state and federal laws on this matter.

            In closing, we urge you to update and maintain the Rohrabacher-Farr medical marijuana provision in any FY ’17 spending bill negotiated with your Senate counterparts.  To do otherwise would override our constituents’ desires, as well as the wishes of this body.  We appreciate your attention to this important matter and hope you will support our request.

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Kenneth Grubbs

Communications Director

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher

Forty-eighth District, California