Last week, we shared news about the U.S. House voting to defund DEA medical marijuana raids in states where the substance is legal. But that doesn't mean the count was unanimous -- even here.
Indeed, three of Colorado's seven representatives voted against the defunding amendment, including U.S. senatorial candidate Cory Gardner -- and a representative for NORML, among the nation's most prominent marijuana-advocacy organizations, confirms that it hopes to target officials like him for anti-pot votes.
As we've reported, the aforementioned vote came in conjunction with H.R. 4660, a massive appropriations bill for "the Departments of Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies for the fiscal year ending September 15, 2015," according to the bill.
Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, proposed an amendment to the measure that reads like so:
AMENDMENT TO H.R. 4660, AS REPORTED (CJS APPROPRIATIONS) OFFERED BY MR. ROHRABACHER OF CALIFORNIA
At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following:
SEC. ll. None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.
The final vote tally was 219 to 189, and in its wake, marijuana advocates cheered the outcome. After all, previous amendments of this sort hadn't gotten anywhere close to passage. The Marijuana Majority's Tom Angell told us the previous high-water mark was 165 votes in favor way back in 2007.
As documented in the official-count document, accessible here, the Colorado representatives voting to defund included three Democrats -- Jared Polis, Ed Perlmutter and Diana DeGette -- as well as one Republican, Mike Coffman.
The latter is embroiled in what's thought to be a tough reelection campaign against likely Dem standard-bearer Andrew Romanoff, which may lead some observers to see his support for defunding as politically calculated. But even though Coffman opposed Amendment 64, the 2012 measure that legalized limited marijuana use and possession by adults age 21 and over, he backed a measure asking that Colorado be exempted from federal marijuana policy mere days after voters approved it. A statement explaining his support quotes him as saying, "I voted against Amendment 64 and I strongly oppose the legalization of marijuana, but I also have an obligation to respect the will of the voters given the passage of this initiative, and so I feel obligated to support this legislation."
Coffman's fellow Republican reps from Colorado apparently feel no such compunction in regard to DEA medical marijuana actions. Voting against the defunding amendment were Scott Tipton, Doug Lamborn and Gardner, who's been running close to sitting U.S. Senator Mark Udall in opinion polls over the past few months.
Can voters in favor of progressive-marijuana policy make a difference in the Gardner-Udall race? NORML certainly believes so. Over the weekend, the organization posted the amendment's roll call on its Facebook page (likes: more than 593,000) along with a contact link to use in order to "either thank/shame them" -- and NORML executive director Allen St. Pierre hopes such efforts will bring more attention to Gardner's vote in ways that might impact the upcoming election.
"NORML is in a great position to highlight individual voting positions and things officials have said publicly," St. Pierre told us during an interview about the organization opening a new office in Colorado. He adds that "even three or four years ago, some might say it would be a badge of honor to be attacked by NORML, but that's not the case now."
In Pierre's view, "the worm has turned" due to increasing popular support for marijuana legalization in Colorado and nationwide, and as a result, "it's likely that we will have the ability to direct people to these votes" -- particularly in the case of Gardner, whose race against Udall "has huge national implications."
Whether highlighting a politician's anti-pot stance might be enough to sway an election is unknown at this point. But no longer can such a prospect be dismissed out of hand.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
More from our Marijuana archive circa May 30: "U.S. House votes to defund DEA medical marijuana raids in Colorado, other MMJ states."
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.