05/15/2012 03:33 pm ET Updated Jul 11, 2012

When a Marijuana Loss Is Actually a Victory

The vote on a major medical marijuana amendment on the floor of the U.S. House on Wednesday night was an exciting development, even though the amendment was rejected by a vote of 163 to 262 (with three current vacancies and seven not voting).

Four congressmen -- Maurice Hinchey (D), Dana Rohrabacher (R), Sam Farr (D), and Tom McClintock (R) -- attempted to attach the amendment to the FY2013 spending bill for the U.S. Justice Department, which includes the DEA.

If the amendment were enacted into law, DOJ would be prevented for one year from spending any taxpayer money to raid medical marijuana patients, caregivers, or businesses in the 16 states where medical marijuana is legal. (This figure will soon increase to 17 states, when Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy (D) signs a medical marijuana bill into law in the next few days.)

Here is why I'm excited about the congressional vote, which paves the way for a possible victory in the U.S. House in one year:

  • The 163 "yes" votes almost broke the previous record of 165 "yes" votes for the same amendment in 2007. But this time, the Marijuana Policy Project and allied organizations did almost no lobbying on the specific amendment (because we were given only 48 hours' notice), and there are many more Republicans in the House now than there were in 2007.
  • A whopping 72% of House Democrats voted for the amendment, sternly rejecting their president's terrible policy of interfering with state-level medical marijuana laws.
  • Eight Democrats who had been previously and unwaveringly supportive of the amendment shamefully flipped to "no" votes this time -- Sanford Bishop (GA), Emanuel Cleaver (MO), Marcy Kaptur (OH), Ron Kind (WI), Ed Pastor (AZ), Dutch Ruppersberger (MD), David Scott (GA), and Maxine Waters (CA). Let's give these eight Democrats hell!
  • Fully 28 Republicans voted for the amendment, which set a new Republican record. In the previous five times that this amendment was raised on the House floor -- once each year from 2003 to 2007 -- no more than 19 Republicans voted for the amendment in any one year.
  • Of the 28 good Republicans, 12 are from the freshman class, which has been noted for its passion for small government. Also, Dan Burton (IN), a long-time drug warrior, voted "yes," which he had done only once before. Of course, Ron Paul (TX) voted "yes," as he always has. And, significantly, three Republicans who had been unwaveringly hostile flipped to the "yes" column -- Tom Petri (WI), Fred Upton (MI), and Don Young (AK). Let's praise these three Republicans!
  • The amendment would have received 183 "yes" votes if (1) 13 House members hadn't switched from "yes" to "no"; (2) four supporters, including Dennis Kucinich (OH), had been present; and (3) three supporters, including Gabby Giffords, hadn't retired early and left their seats open.

So I consider 183 "yes" votes as the baseline from which to work. But consider this: If the Democrats have a big day on November 6 and significantly increase their margin in the House -- as they did in November 2006 and again in November 2008 -- we might pick up 10 or 15 additional "yes" votes, free of charge. That would put us in the range of 195 "yes" votes.

The amendment needs only 218 votes to pass, and that's if all 435 House members actually vote.

While the health of cancer and AIDS patients shouldn't be a partisan issue, it's a matter of fact that Libertarians and Greens are almost always perfect on the issue, Democrats are pretty consistently good, and Republicans are pretty consistently bad.

While MPP is a nonpartisan organization, we can and do support candidates for public office, and we're taking a careful look at "who was naughty and who was nice" on Wednesday night.

As we all know, Obama's federal thugs have been viciously undercutting the medical marijuana laws in a few states -- most notably in California. And we also know that medical marijuana is far more popular nationwide than Obama is.

And now we know that Democrats in the U.S. House officially disagree with Obama.

Obama -- a former marijuana user himself -- is way, way, way out on a limb right now, with no benefit in sight. If he's lucky enough to get re-elected on November 6, he's going to have to clean up this medical marijuana mess that he, himself, started in the spring of 2011.

The Democrats in the U.S. House, led by Nancy Pelosi (CA), just brought this day of reckoning one step closer.