The Republican sponsor of a House amendment that would ban federal spending to arrest state-licensed medical marijuana patients and providers made an impassioned plea Thursday night for the government to stay out of doctor-patient relationships.
"Some people are suffering and if a doctor feels that he needs to prescribe something to alleviate that suffering it is immoral for this government to get in the way," Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) said. "And that's what's happening. The state governments have recognized that a doctor has a right to treat his patient in any way he sees fit and so did our founding fathers. I ask for support for my amendment."
The amendment passed 219-189 early Friday.
The debate pitted three House Republicans who also are doctors against one another. Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) and Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) opposed the amendment, while Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) supported it. Harris insisted that there were no medical benefits to marijuana and that medical marijuana laws were a step toward legalizing recreational pot.
A visibly frustrated Rohrabacher rejected those arguments.
"Over half the states have already gone through every argument that was presented and decided against what you just heard," Rohrabacher argued. "There are doctors in every one of those states that participated in a long debate over this and found exactly the opposite of what we've heard today."
Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use. Five other states -- Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Utah, and Wisconsin -- have legalized regulating CBD oils, a non-psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana that has been found to be effective at treating epilepsy.
The federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I substance with "no currently accepted medical use."