Early in the morning of May 30, the House of Representatives voted to approve an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2015 (HR 4660) that has the effect of prohibiting the federal government from interfering in the production or distribution of medical marijuana in those states that have legalized it.
Introduced by Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-California), the amendment passed on a vote of 219-189, with 49 Republicans and 170 Democrats voting in favor of it. It was the first time the House had voted on a bill related to this topic since 1998.
Virginia Members vote 'no'
Among the members of the Virginia delegation, Representatives Rob Wittman (R-VA1), J. Randy Forbes (R-VA4), Robert Hurt (R-VA5), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA6), Eric Cantor (R-VA7), Morgan Griffith (R-VA9), and Frank Wolf (R-VA10) voted no, while Representatives Scott Rigell (R-VA2), Bobby Scott (D-VA3), Jim Moran (D-VA8), and Gerald Connolly (D-VA11) voted yes.
Morgan Griffith's “no” vote came as something of a surprise, since he has introduced legislation similar to the Rohrabacher amendment. In April, Griffith submitted HR 4498, the ``Legitimate Use of Medicinal Marijuana Act'' or the ``LUMMA''. The bill would restrict the federal government from applying the Controlled Substances Act (as it relates to cannabis) in states that have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana.
Robert Hurt's “no” vote was not as surprising, although in an exclusive interview with the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner before the Rohrabacher amendment came to the floor, the Fifth District congressman said he was open to the concept.
Hurt explains his position on cannabis
Speaking specifically about Griffith's bill, Hurt told Examiner.com that “I think that the case that [Griffith] makes is very compelling.”
Hurt explained that “it's not good when the government gets between patients and their physicians,” such as when doctors “diagnose chronic and significant pain, nausea, and other issues that could be ameliorated by this treatment.”
The policy change envisioned by Griffith's bill, he said, is “something that we ought to look at and, as Morgan points out, the Virginia law [on medical marijuana] would allow for this if there was no federal ban.”
(Former Delegate Harvey Morgan, a Republican from Gloucester, sought to clarify and strengthen Virginia's medical marijuana statute several years ago.)
Hurt was careful to note that, although he has “the highest amount of respect” for Congressman Griffith, “it's important to just point out that I am not, and never have been, in favor of legalizing marijuana. I don't think it should be legalized.”
The Chatham Republican added, with regard to legalization efforts in Colorado and Washington state, “that those states that have done that in the West, I fear they're going to be sorry that they've done that [and] gone down that road.”
Hurt said he has not yet taken a position on Griffith's medical pot bill, but he is looking at it carefully.