MADISON -- Wisconsin's U.S. congressional delegation split 4-4 on a vote Wednesday night for an amendment to a federal spending bill, H R 5326, that would prohibit the Department of Justice from using federal funds to oppose state medical cannabis law implementation. While the amendment was defeated 262-163, with 50 Democrats joining 212 Republicans in opposition, the support of two Wisconsin Republican congressman is notable.
Republicans Tom Petri of Fond du Lac and Reid Ribble of Appleton joined Democrats Tammy Baldwin of Madison and Milwaukee's Gwen Moore in voting in favor of the amendment. Surprisingly, La Crosse Democrat Ron Kind joined Republicans F. James Sensenbrenner, Paul Ryan and Sean Duffy in voting no. The vote may be the first-ever votes in favor of medical cannabis by Republican Wisconsin congressional representatives since the 1990s when GOP Rep. Steve Gunderson represented what is now Ron Kind's district.
The amendment was introduced by Reps. Sam Farr (D-CA), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) as a response to a wide-ranging multi-state interagency crackdown by the Obama Administration that has closed more than 300 dispensaries in California alone, just since October 2011. Dispensaries in other states including Colorado have also been targeted.
The crackdown came despite statements by President Obama that seemed to indicate his Administration would not target medical cannabis businesses operating in legal compliance with state medical cannabis programs. Currently, 16 states and Washington Dc allow medical use, with the governor of Connecticut expected to make that state number 17 when he signs recently passed legislation.