The people have spoken, and a Republican-controlled Congress has listened. The U.S. House of Representatives approved a ban on Drug Enforcement Administration raids on medical marijuana grows, dispensaries and users in states where the medicinal use of cannabis is legal.
The man behind the ban -- which is an amendment to the Justice Department's budget -- is U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Southern California Republican. And in a nod to the majority of Americans now behind legal weed use in some form, enough Republicans voted along with him. Yes, the GOP got it done.
The weed community is understandably ecstatic this morning, as last night's 219-189 vote is absolutely marijuana's biggest victory yet on Capitol Hill. However, nothing's changed yet: the feds can still run herd on weed in 33 states and the District of Columbia unless the amendment to the DOJ budget also passes the Senate.
Rohrabacher has been pushing this amendment since 2002, the Los Angeles Times noted, but only this year was he able to get 49 other Republicans to sign on with him.
That's not to say that Congress has changed its thinking entirely: a Republican congressman from Maryland, who is also a physician, compared medical marijuana to doctors recommending cigarettes to sick people -- because, of course, an apple is an orange -- and 17 Democrats also shot down the amendment, which passed at about 12:30 a.m. last night D.C. time.
DEA raids have been rarer and rarer in recent years in California and other states where cannabis can be bought and sold in a legal transaction. What the Justice Department has done instead is threaten dispensaries' landlords with asset forfeiture proceedings unless the pot store is shut down.
They may still be able to do that, whether or not the Senate agrees (in all likelihood it will not; to give you an idea of how different the two houses of Congress feel, look no further than San Francisco's delegation: U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi is on board; U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein would rather eat a glass sundae than back pot).
But for the meantime, this is a big win, weed activists said.
"This historic vote shows just how quickly marijuana reform has become a mainstream issue," said Tom Angell, spokesman for the Marijuana Majority. "If any political observers weren't aware that the end of the war on marijuana is nearing, they just found out."