House Members Propose Measure To Help Prevent Federal Prosecution of Medical Marijuana Users
Reps. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) on Tuesday proposed an amendment to the fiscal year 2006 Science, State, Justice and Commerce Appropriations bill that would prevent the Department of Justice from using federal funds to prosecute medical marijuana users in states that authorize its use, CQ HealthBeat reports. The amendment states that no DOJ funds "may be used to prevent the states of Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Oregon, Vermont or Washington from implementing state laws authorizing the use of medical marijuana."
The vote on the amendment, expected late Tuesday or Wednesday, comes after a June 6 Supreme Court decision that the federal government can override state law in such cases (CQ HealthBeat, 6/14). However, supporters of the bill said that "there is little chance of passage," the AP/Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin reports.
In votes in the past two years, the amendment received about 150 of 435 House votes (Barrett, AP/Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin, 6/14). It would need 218 votes to win passage (CQ HealthBeat, 6/14).
Hinchey said, "This is a responsibility Congress should face up to." However, Joseph Califano, chair of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, said, "This is Congress legislating medical practice, and it makes no sense."
Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.), chair of the House drug policy subcommittee, said Hinchey and Rohrabacher's efforts are intended to gradually legalize marijuana. He added that marijuana should be studied and regulated by FDA if scientific data supports its use as a pain medication (AP/Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin, 6/14).
Several recent editorials and opinion pieces examined the Supreme Court decision last week on medical marijuana. Summaries appear below.
Anchorage Daily News: Congress should "at the very least leave medical marijuana up to the states" because the "danger" of illicit trade "doesn't suffice to inflict pain on people who have found relief in the drug, wisely used and with a doctor's care," according to a Daily News editorial (Anchorage Daily News, 6/10).
- Cathy Young, Boston Globe: The decision is "bad legal reasoning" and "bad moral reasoning," Globe columnist Young writes in an opinion piece, adding, "Whether you use personal autonomy or compassion as your standard, denying seriously ill men and women access to a drug that could help them is repugnant" (Young, Boston Globe, 6/13).
New Haven Register: Although the decision "is an immediate setback to advocates of medical marijuana" and rests on "less than solid logic, ... either the court or Congress may eventually reinterpret or rewrite the marijuana ban," a Register editorial states (New Haven Register, 6/10).
- Jacob Sullum, New York Post: "The fact that Congress felt it had to disguise its first marijuana law as a tax measure suggests how far we have traveled ... from the plain meaning of the Commerce Clause, which has been transformed into an all-purpose excuse for federal meddling," Post columnist Sullum writes in an opinion piece (Sullum, New York Post, 6/13).
San Francisco Chronicle: The Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, which Congress is expected to consider Wednesday, is a "timely, sensible and humane solution to a problem affecting seriously ill people complying with the law," and if Congress "fails to support such a commonsense approach ... it will have abdicated the responsibility placed on it" by the Supreme Court, a Chronicle editorial states (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/15).
- Daniele Piomelli, Washington Post: Although "marijuana is an addictive drug that requires careful monitoring, its active constituents can be useful in medicine when appropriately employed," Piomelli, a professor of pharmacology and director of the Center for Drug Discovery at the University of California-Irvine, writes in a Post opinion piece, adding that "the goal of having realistic drug laws in this country that penalize drug abuse but also encourage medical progress" is more important (Piomelli, Washington Post, 6/12).
- Bruce Fein, Washington Times: The decision "pivoted on the unalarming and time-honored principle Congress may regulate intrastate activities where reasonably helpful to advancing a legitimate national objective" but does not allow lawmakers to "regulate every nook and cranny of domestic affairs," Fein, a constitutional attorney with Bruce Fein & Associates and the Lichfield Group, writes in a Times opinion piece (Fein, Washington Times, 6/14).