The House early Friday adopted Rep. Dana Rohrabacher's (R-Calif.) proposal to bar the Justice Department from preventing states' implementation of their own medical marijuana laws.
Adopted 219-189, Rohrabacher's measure was offered as an amendment to a 2015 appropriations bill to fund the Justice Department, Commerce Department and science programs. It would apply to the 33 states that allow the use or possession of medical marjiuana.
"Despite this overwhelming shift in public opinion, the federal government continues its hard line of oppression against medical marijuana," Rohrabacher said.
The amendment attracted the support of a bipartisan coalition in favor of legalized marijuana.
"This train has already left the station," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), whose state allows the use of medical marijuana. "The problem is that the federal government's getting in the way."
But other lawmakers argued that states shouldn't be encouraged to promote what has long been an illegal drug in the United States.
"This will take the away the ability of the Department of Justice to protect our young people," said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.).
Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), a former physician, said that other addictive drugs proven to help with certain health problems weren't being promoted the same way as marijuana. He cited an example that nicotine, an ingredient in cigarettes, has been proven to help certain types of epilepsy.
"Why don't we have therapeutic tobacco?" Harris said. "Nobody writes a prescription and says, 'Smoke a couple of cigarettes and cure your epilepsy.' But that's what we're being asked to do."