House Bill Would Block Federal Prosecution of Medical Marijuana Use in 10 States
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) has introduced a bill that would exempt physicians and pharmacists in states with medical marijuana laws from prosecution by the federal government, the Washington Times reports (Dinan, Washington Times, 5/5).
Ten states have laws that allow residents to use marijuana for medical purposes -- Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington (Werner, AP/Contra Costa Times, 5/5). However, federal law allows the Department of Justice to prosecute marijuana suppliers -- as well as physicians who recommend the substance as a pain medication (Washington Times, 5/5).
Frank said, "The notion that a state-sanctioned practice of medicine ought to be criminalized really makes no sense" (AP/Contra Costa Times, 5/5). In previous years, Frank has introduced similar legislation that failed, but the bill appears to have bipartisan support this year.
However, according to the Washington Times, the legislation must "first get past" Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.), chair of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources who opposes medical marijuana. Souder said last year, "Marijuana is not medicine. Patients who are smoking marijuana are being denied legitimate care that could improve rather than worsen their medical conditions (Washington Times, 5/5).
Meanwhile, Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) have said that they plan to propose an amendment to a House appropriations bill under which DOJ could not use federal funds to prosecute medical marijuana use. Rohrabacher said, "It makes no sense at all to have the federal government overriding a vote of the people of a state on what should be criminalized and what shouldn't be criminalized in terms of personal consumption" (AP/Contra Costa Times, 5/5).
On Wednesday, Frank joined the Marijuana Policy Project and other advocates of medical marijuana at an event to announce his bill (Sandalow, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/5).
Talk show host Montel Williams, who has said that marijuana has served as the only effective treatment for his pain from multiple sclerosis, also spoke at the event (Washington Times, 5/5).
In addition, Angel Raich, the plaintiff in a lawsuit before the Supreme Court over whether DOJ can prosecute individuals in states that allow residents to use marijuana for medical purposes, spoke at the event. The court could issue a decision in the case as early as May 16 (AP/Contra Costa Times, 5/5).