MEDICAL MARIJUANA: SENATE COMMITTEE HEARS TESTIMONY
The Senate Judiciary Committee began hearings yesterdayThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
regarding recently approved ballot measures in California and
Arizona that legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE reports that committee members "vowed to
watch the impact" of the initiatives, "calling them a first step
in a well-orchestrated, well-funded plan to legalize drugs in
America." Committee Chair Sen. Orrin Hatch (UT), said, "We can't
let this go without a response" (Martin, 12/3). AP/ARIZONA DAILY
STAR reports that the hearing proved to be a "tricky situation"
for Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ), who attempted to argue that his
"constituents were duped into passing" the law while avoiding
"offending those very constituents." Kyl said, "How could this
happen in Arizona? I am extraordinarily embarrassed." He
contended that state residents who voted for the measure "were
deceived, and deliberately so, by sponsors" of the proposition.
Arizona's law (Proposition 200), which allows physicians to
prescribe marijuana, heroin and other controlled substances for
medical purposes, passed 65% to 35%; California's law
(Proposition 215), which allows the medical use of marijuana,
passed 56% to 44% (see AHL 11/6).
DEADLINE USA: Sen. Hatch and other lawmakers used the
hearing to seek "increased enforcement of federal anti-drug laws
to combat the propositions' impact" (Skorneck, 12/3). USA TODAY
reports that the committee "pressed the Clinton administration
... for a policy to deal with" the new initiatives (12/3).
Saying that the measures passed because "philanthropists of the
drug legalization movement pumped millions of dollars" into the
campaigns, Hatch gave the administration until January 1, 1997 to
"provide a description of federal policy and options" for dealing
with this issue. White House Drug Czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey,
said "We're trying to puzzle through what our response will be."
AP/DAILY STAR reports that "[f]ederal law enforcement officials
have said they will pursue California and Arizona drug violators
on a case-by-case basis, but have no specific plan yet" (12/3).
DANGER WARNING: Bill Zimmerman, campaign manager for
California for Medical Rights, said the scope of Proposition 215
should be strictly limited. He testified that an "unregulated
boom in pot cultivation could" harm efforts to increase medical
uses of marijuana. "If Proposition 215 is ultimately perceived
as leading to a substantial increase in recreational marijuana
smoking and cultivation, we could very easily see the passage of
an initiative that overturns the decriminalization of medical
marijuana. ... The people could take away in 1998 what they gave
in 1996" (CHRONICLE, 12/3).