Central Pennsylvania’s delegates to the U.S. House of Representatives – all Republicans – on Friday voted in support of a bill that includes an amendment that favors legalized marijuana.
Representatives Lou Barletta (11th district), Charlie Dent (15th district), Scott Perry (4th district), Jim Gerlach (6th district) and Tom Marino (10th district) were among GOP House members who voted in favor of a bill that contains an amendment barring the federal government from meddling in the marijuana laws of 33 states that allow the use or possession of medical marijuana.
The measure – authored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) – is an amendment to a larger $51.2 billion funding appropriations bill for the Justice and Commerce departments, among others.
The GOP-controlled house voted 219-189 in favor of the bill.
The issue of federal overreach is certain to have been key in the vote, but speaking to TheHill.com, Rohrabacher said his amendment reflected shifting public opinion toward the use of medical marijuana.
“Despite this overwhelming shift in public opinion, the federal government continues its hard line of oppression against medical marijuana,” Rohrabacher said.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), told TheHill.com: “This train has already left the station. The problem is that the federal government’s getting in the way.”
Blumenauer’s home state of Oregon allows the use of medical marijuana.
Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for Barletta, said the Republican had voted against Rohrabacher’s amendment because it was overly broad and gave federal agents the option to not to enforce the law in certain states. Barletta, he said, is open to discussion of the legal use of medicinal marijuana, but the amendment was not the proper way to go. The Hazleton Republican would like to see hearings and input from the medical community, among others, during that debate, Murtaugh said.
Perry voted in favor of the amendment. The amendment was but one of dozens offered in the bill. The bill provides funding for programs to combat gangs and prevent violence against women, and restores and increases funding for the incarceration of illegal immigrants in local jails, among a slew of other initiatives.
State counterparts in the General Assembly have recently also struck shifting stances on the legalization of marijuana debate.
In November, state Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) joined longtime legal marijuana champion and Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Philadelphia) in co-sponsoring a medical marijuana law.
Folmer told PennLive that there were many legally-prescribed drugs, including painkillers, which have negative side effects such as high potential for addiction. Folmer argued that because of their medical benefits, doctors can prescribe these substances, adding that doctors should similarly be able to tap medical benefits of marijuana.
“Medical cannabis is a plant that has been put here by God to be used for our benefit,” said the Republican lawmaker.
The bipartisan Senate Bill 1182 – the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act – would protect state residents with serious and debilitating medical conditions from arrest for using and obtaining medical marijuana under doctors’ orders. Twenty states and Washington, D.C. have compassionate laws on the books.
Earlier this month, Gov. Tom Corbett, also a Republican, shifted his stance on medical marijuana, saying he supported legislation that would legalize marijuana extract to treat severe seizures in children.
“I have been looking at this issue extensively over the past few months and listening to many perspectives,” Corbett said. “I have heard the concerns and heartbreaking stories of these families and want to help. However, we must address this issue in a way that helps these families, but also protects the public health and safety of all Pennsylvanians.”
More: Folmer and Leach commend Corbett on position change
Corbett, a former Attorney General and opponent of legalized marijuana, previously said he would be open to guidance from the Food and Drug Administration.
This report has been updated to include additional information.
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