The Hinchey-Rohrabacher Medical Cannabis Amendment

Analysis of the 2006 US House of Representatives Vote
by Jon Gettman


Every year Congress passes appropriations bills to authorize spending by federal agencies. Since 2003 Maurice Hinchey (D-NY-22) has introduced an amendment on the floor of the House of Representatives that would prohibit the Department of Justice from using federal funds to prevent 10 states, that have accepted medical cannabis use by referendum or legislative action, from authorizing the medical use of cannabis. Maryland, which recognizes medical cannabis use as an affirmative defense, would not be affected by the amendment. The amendment is co-sponsored by Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA-46), who along with Ron Paul (R-TX-14) and 16 other Republicans supported the amendment on libertarian and/or state's rights grounds. In 2006 the amendment received 163 votes. In addition to 18 Republican votes the 144 Democrats supporting the amendment were joined by Independent Bernie Sanders (VT-At Large). The House of Representatives has 435 voting members. This roll call vote (No. 333) was 163 votes for the amendment and 259 votes against it. Ten representatives did not vote, two seats were vacant, and the Speaker of the House does not vote.


Roll Call Vote 333 on the Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment, 2006
Total
For
Against
Not Voting
Democrats
201 144 53 4
Republicans
230 18 206 6
Independent
1 1 0 0
Total
432 163 259 10

Eleven states have medical cannabis legislation and twelve states have decriminalization laws. All together these 18 states have 169 representatives in the House. The Hinchey Amendment received the votes of 67% of the congressional delegations from states with medical cannabis legislation, the votes of 54% of the delegations from states with decriminalization laws, and overall the amendment received 57% of the votes of the delegations from these 18 reform states.


Hinchey Amendment Voting by Reform State Delegations
State
Medical
Decrim
Total Yes Votes Percent
Alaska
x
x
1
0
0.00%
California
x
x
53
33
62.26%
Colorado
x
x
7
4
57.14%
Hawaii
x
 
2
2
100.00%
Maryland
x
 
8
7
87.50%
Maine
x
x
2
2
100.00%
Minnesota
 
x
8
3
37.50%
Mississippi
 
x
4
1
25.00%
Montana
x
 
1
1
100.00%
North Carolina
 
x
13
3
23.08%
Nebraska
 
x
3
0
0.00%
Nevada
x
x
3
2
66.67%
New York
 
x
29
20
68.97%
Ohio
 
x
18
7
38.89%
Oregon
 
x
5
4
80.00%
Rhode Island
x
 
2
2
100.00%
Vermont
x
 
1
1
100.00%
Washington
x
 
9
5
55.56%
Total
169
97
57.40%

Congressional Quarterly provides assessments of the re-election prospects for members of the House of Representatives. The amendment received support from 75% of the Democrats with "safe" seats unlikely to face serious opposition for re-election. Fourteen of the eighteen Republican votes also hold safe seats. The amendment received 150 of its 163 votes from representatives with safe seats.


Hinchey Amendment Voting According to Re-election Prospects
Total
Yes
No
Pct Yes
Safe Democratic
181 136 41 75.14%
Democratic Favored
11 5 6 45.45%
Leans Democratic
10 3 6 30.00%
No Clear Favorite
9 2 5 22.22%
Leans Republican
17 1 14 5.88%
Republican Favored
28 2 26 7.14%
Safe Republican
179 14 161 7.82%
Total
435 163 259 37.47%

Among Democrats in the House from states with a majority vote for John Kerry in the 2004 Presidential election the amendment received support from 85% of the representatives, but only 48% of the Democrats from states that gave a majority vote to Bush voted for the amendment.


HInchey Amendment Voting According to Re-election Prospects
Total
Yes
No
Pct Yes
Kerry State Democrats
125 107 14 85.60%
Kerry State Republicans
85 9 72 10.59%
Kerry State Total
210 116 86 55.24%
 
Bush State Democrats
77 37 39 48.05%
Bush State Republicans
147 9 134 6.12%
Bush State Total
224 46 173 20.54%
 
Kerry State Independent
1 1 0
Total
435 163 259 37.47%

The amendment received 152 votes in 2003, the first time Hinchey attempted to attach it to appropriations bill for the Department of Justice. Four years later support for the measure is at 163 votes. Twelve of the Yes votes in 2003 have been lost in comparison with the 2006 vote, eight because of a change of mind by the representative and four due to a change in representatives. These lost 12 votes partially offset the 23 found yes votes in which votes against the measure in 2003 became votes for the amendment in 2006. Five of these changed votes are from districts that changed their representatives between the 2003 and 2006 votes.

Lost Yes Votes: 2003 Votes for the Amendment that Became No Votes in the 2006 Vote
St-Dist
Representative
Party
New
Incumbent
CA-20
Costa
Democrat
x
CA-22
Thomas
Republican  
CA-45
Bono
Republican  
FL-17
Meek
Democrat  
FL-20
Wasserman-Schultz
Democrat
x
ID-02
Simpson
Republican  
NE-01
Fortenberry
Republican
x
PA-11
Kanjorski
Democrat  
TX-20
Gonzalez
Democrat  
TX-28
Cueller
Democrat
x
WA-02
Larsen
Democrat  
WV-03
Rahall, II
Democrat  

Thirteen of the twenty-three votes gained over the four year period were from states with reform legislation.

Found Votes: 2003 Votes Against the Amendment that Became Yes Votes in the 2006 vote
St-Dist
Representative
Party
New
Incumbent
CA-07
Miller
Democrat
 
CA-40
Royce
Republican
 
CA-48
Campbell
Republican
x
CT-02
Simmons
Republican
 
IN-05
Burton
Republican
 
KS-03
Moore
Democrat
 
LA-03
Melancon
Democrat
x
MD-03
Cardin
Democrat
 
MD-05
Hoyer
Democrat
 
MD-06
Bartlett
Republican
 
MI-05
Kildee
Democrat
 
MO-03
Carnahan
Democrat
x
MT-00
Rehberg
Republican
 
NJ-06
Pallone, J
Democrat
 
NJ-09
Rothman
Democrat
 
NV-01
Berkley
Democrat
 
NY-21
McNulty
Democrat
 
NY-27
Higgins
Democrat
x
OH-14
LaTourette
Republican
 
OR-01
Wu
Democrat
 
RI-02
Langevin
Democrat
 
SC-06
Clyburn
Democrat
 
TX-09
Green
Democrat
x


Support for the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment is concentrated among safe Democrats from states that have adopted medical cannabis or decriminalization measures. Support for the amendment consists primarily of the liberal core of the Democratic party, with some libertarian support from Republicans with safe seats of their own. One of the difficulties in attracting more support for the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment is that is doesn't have much to offer legislators or constituents from non-reform states. Another difficulty is finding a way to make the medical cannabis issue appeal to representatives from conservative, rural, and southern districts -- not necessarily all the same, for that matter -- other than relying on states' rights arguments that so far have been less than effective.

What are the prospects for the amendment's passage if the Democrats gain control of the House of Representatives in the next election? It largely depends on the nature of the districts in which Democratic challengers oust Republican incumbents. But even if enough Democrats replace Republican incumbents to gain control of the House it will not make it certain that the Hinchey amendment will pass in 2007. While Democrats are more likely to support this amendment than Republicans, based on prior voting behavior, the measure does not appeal to all Democrats. The amendment currently has the support of 71% of the Democrats in the House of Representatives. After fours years of lobbying by a number of public interest groups support for the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment stands at 37.5% of the votes in the House of Representatives. A national map of voting on Hinchey-Rohrabacher by congressional district illustrates this point. Not only is support for the amendment concentrated in reform states, it is also concentrated in urban metropolitan and surrounding areas. There is considerable support for medical cannabis in New England, New York City and Northern New Jersey, Maryland, the Los Angeles area, San Francisco, northern California and northern Pacific Coastal areas, and again many of these areas have already endorsed reform approaches such as decriminalization and medical cannabis authorization. Even if the Democrats gain control of the House the challenge of building support for medical cannabis throughout the country remains. Whether Hinchey-Rohrabacher is the vehicle with which to organize national support for medical cannabis remains an open question.

 
  
 
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