The legislative fight against medical marijuana raids

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This week the Indy reviewed Code of the West, a documentary that covers the contentious end to Montana's medical marijuana industry both through legislative debate and a rash of federal raids. It's a maddening film to watch in that people who openly follow state law are subject to search warrants and federal charges that not only ruin their businesses and livelihoods, but also the livelihoods of their patients.

Code of the West
  • Code of the West
A lot of people have wondered why no politicians stood up to the raids. Why Attorney General (and gubernatorial candidate) Steve Bullock, or Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus, or maybe even Rep. Denny Rehberg didn't cry about supporting state rights or excessive federal reach. Once the raids spread to other states, the questions grew.

Well, finally, a group of legislators have done something about it. U.S. Reps. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) joined forces in an effort to cut off funding for the federal government's ramped-up enforcement actions around medical marijuana.

According to the Huffington Post:

The lawmakers' bipartisan legislation, which would prohibit the use of federal funds to interfere with state pot laws, is expected to hit the House floor as part of a broader debate over a bill, H.R. 5326, that funds the Department of Justice.

"Patients suffering from painful and serious illnesses are following the recommendations of their doctors by using medical cannabis to minimize their pain and support their recovery," Rep. Farr told HuffPost in a statement Tuesday afternoon. "It is time for the federal government to stop targeting the legal vendors that are providing safe access to this treatment, and instead focus limited resources on those who sell illicit drugs. The amendment I will offer with my colleagues will work to assure funds under the Department of Justice do not target the safe access to treatment patients need.”

The bill passed the House last night without the proposed amendment, but Farr, Rohrabacher and Hinchey, as well as 160 other representatives, voted against it. They lost this fight, but deserve credit for at least throwing a punch.

For those interested, Code of the West screens at the Wilma Tuesday, May 15, at 7 PM, followed by a panel discussion with Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg, Montana NORML's John Masterson, filmmaker Rebecca Richman Cohen and state Rep. Diane Sands, moderated by former U.S. House Rep. Pat Williams.

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