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Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. FARR. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the Rohrabacher-Hinchey-Farr and now McClintock amendment.

It is obvious from the votes that we've been casting here, yesterday and tonight, this afternoon, that this body insists on protecting the rights of States to define marriage. This body insists on protecting the rights of States to set abortion policies. This body insists on protecting rights of the States to determine education curricula and standards. Just yesterday this body decided that certain States get to enforce Federal immigration laws however they see fit.

But when it comes to protecting the rights of States to set medical scope of practice laws, this body balks. All of a sudden States no longer have the right to determine what is best for their citizens and when those rights include medical marijuana.

The Rohrabacher-Hinchey-Farr-McClintock amendment doesn't change Federal law. It doesn't change drug policy. However, it does protect States' rights.

For those of you who come from States that do not have medical marijuana laws, nothing in this amendment will impact your States. Everything in your States remains exactly status quo. For those of you who come from States that do have medical marijuana laws, which means the States of Alaska, Arizona, California, which is my own State--it's interesting what we have done in California. We've decriminalized the possession of medical marijuana. It's an infraction, not a felony. We've also legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes, but the voters at the same time have turned down an intensive legalization use. So it's very controlled. The laws are tight and they are enforced.

The other States that have passed laws are Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. For your States, very little in this amendment will impact your States except that you will now have a State that will be able to implement the laws without fear of retribution or of retaliation from the Federal Government. I will also note that, in addition to the 16 States I've just mentioned, the State of Connecticut just passed a medical marijuana bill last week, and the Governor said he'll sign it. So, to the list of 16 States, we soon have added No. 17, the State of Connecticut.

If States' rights are not a good enough reason to pass this amendment, then do it because of compassion. Compassion demands it. We offer this amendment for terminal cancer patients, for AIDS victims, for persons who suffer with chronic pain. We offer this amendment not only to protect those people, but we offer this amendment to protect the States that are progressive enough to provide alternative medical options to those who need it. I urge all of my colleagues to support the Rohrabacher-Hinchey-Farr amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. FARR. I rise in strong opposition to this amendment.

First of all, this is an appropriations bill. We're supposed to be discussing how we appropriate money to the Justice Department, Commerce Department, and State Department. People are just kind of cavaliering, coming in here and offering all kinds of amendments to make no funds available. That isn't the way you set policy, and that isn't the way you have a discussion on an issue like this. This is a very important issue. This is about enforcing the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. You don't think we had discrimination in this country? Don't you think we still have discrimination and are making it difficult for people to access the voting booth?

I come from a county, a district, that is under this section. I'm from California. The gentleman spoke about Georgia. There are States, even like California, that have counties that qualify to be under this act because they had so low of a percentage of adults registered to vote. Obviously, these counties were making it very difficult. What this says is that in those counties, when you draw political districts, you've got to have them reviewed by the Justice Department. What's wrong with that?

We have a history of discrimination. To come in to an appropriations bill and take a big whack out of it in the Voting Rights Act in an election year, what message are we sending--that these States that want to make it very difficult for people to vote are showing how democracy ought to be practiced around the world?

Mr. BROUN of Georgia. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. FARR. No, I will not yield to the gentleman.

I think these and a lot of other amendments warrant some serious debate in Congress, but certainly not on this bill and not at this time--10 o'clock at night, in an election year, on a Voting Rights Act bill that deals with the basic fundamental rights of individuals being able to have access to the ballot. No, sir. This amendment is inappropriate at this time, and it ought to be voted down.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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