In an unprecedented move Thursday night, the House of Representatives voted to pass a bill that prevents the Drug Enforcement Administration from raiding state-legal medical marijuana dispensaries.
Just after midnight, the vote won with 219 ayes, including an unexpected 49 Republicans and 170 Democrats. It’s the first time Congress has approved a major marijuana law reform, which shows the changing tide of marijuana policy in the United States—and suggests a new day is rising in the war on drugs. A similar measure failed in Congress six previous times, receiving the most votes (165) in 2007. But with data showing three out of four Americans now approve of medical marijuana, the issue gained momentum in the months leading up to the vote.
Medical marijuana advocates across the nation celebrated the landmark decision. “This is a huge development,” Mason Tvert Director of Communications Marijuana Policy Project, told The Daily Beast hours later. “This is a major sign that things are moving full-speed in the right direction at the federal level, as well as the state level.”
The vote followed emotional testimony in support of the bill from representatives. "Some people are suffering, if a doctor feels he needs to prescribe, it is immoral for this govt to get in the way!" said Republican Dana Rohrabacher. “ Barbara Lee, a Democrat, joined the chorus: "This is the right thing to do, the democratic thing to do. Enough is enough.”
Others such as Representative John Fleming, fought to keep the bill from passing. "This is an extremely dangerous drug for our children and for future generations,” he said. "Marijuana is not safe or legal. There is more evidence every day that it is not safe,” Representative Andy Harris added.
But if anyone is most excited about the bill, it’s the families of those sick and dying who rely on medical marijuana as a treatment method.
Tom Angell, Chariman of the Marijuana Majority, says it was their stories that propelled the bill forward. "Lawmakers only recently began hearing the moving stories of the many children whose severe seizures are only relieved by marijuana," Angell told The Daily Beast. "Being able to list these CBD states in the amendment text meant that more members of Congress that represent these states voted yes than otherwise would have. Counting these states, 60 percent of the U.S. population lives in a place where state law disagrees with federal law."
Families of those using medical marijuana as treatment for things ranging from cancer to AIDS came out on Twitter to express their utter relief at the news, their Tweets all echoing the same sentiment: Finally.