WASHINGTON — The House voted to block the Drug Enforcement Administration from raiding marijuana outlets and prosecuting users in states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Supporters said the 219-189 vote signaled an inevitable loosening of federal restrictions as almost half the states have passed “medical marijuana” laws. While the amendment passed with a bare majority, its support came from both Democrats and Republicans.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., argued the amendment should be attractive to states-right conservatives and to those concerned about government interference in the relationships between doctors and their patients.
Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., a medical doctor, said marijuana “is less dangerous than some narcotics that doctors prescribe all over this country.”
Others argued that relaxing laws on marijuana enforcement was a step towards legalizing the drug for recreational use.
“I don’t think we should accept at all that this is history in the making,” said Rep. John Fleming, R-La., who also is a physician.
Reps. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, and Steve Womack, R-Rogers, voted against the ban on enforcement.
The amendment was made part of an appropriations bill for the Justice Department and other agencies that passed the House by a wide margin. The Senate is working on its own version of the bill.
More money for gun checks
The House voted 260-145 to bolster the national database of people barred from buying guns.
An amendment to the Justice Department spending bill provides $19.5 billion in additional grants to help states send records to the FBI database of criminals and people deemed mentally ill to own firearms.
“Right now, all of the information isn’t getting in,” said Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif. “When the information doesn’t get into the system, we can’t enforce the law, and dangerous people who otherwise wouldn’t pass a background check can slip through the cracks and buy guns.”
The vote was taken days after the shooting rampage in Isla Vista, Calif., focused new attention on gun controls. The amendment drew support from 184 Democrats and 76 Republicans while 142 Republicans and only three Democrats voted against it.
Crawford, Cotton, Griffin and Womack voted against the amendment.
Vote targets “sanctuary cities”
The House voted 218-193 for an amendment that would cut federal funds to “sanctuary cities” that decline to notify federal law enforcers of illegal immigrants or ban city employees and police from asking people about their immigration status.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said those cities are violating federal immigration law and should not be rewarded for doing so.
“If these cities and if these political subdivisions disagree with federal law, they can come here and ask Congress to change the law,” King said. “We simply cannot have a law enforcement structure in the United States where you don’t have local and state and federal officers cooperating with each other. It is not good for our communities’ security, and it is not good for our national security.”
Speaking against the amendment, Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., said it is the responsibility of the federal government to enforce immigration law.
“It is not a local community’s responsibility,” Fattah said. “When the fire department shows up, it is supposed to put the fire out, not worry about where someone’s papers are.”
Crawford, Cotton, Griffin and Womack voted for the King amendment.