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Date Issued   09/01/06 02:36 PM EST
Today in Congress


news release



CONTACT: Peter Kovar (202) 225-5931
Dorothy Reichard (617) 332-3920


Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) joined a bipartisan group of House Members, advocates and patients in calling today for action on the States' Rights to Medical Marijuana Act (H.R. 2592), a bill he introduced to permit states to allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. There are currently 9 states with laws on the books permitting the medical use of marijuana, but federal law, as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court, supersedes state laws. This means that most states have found it virtually impossible to actually implement their own medical marijuana laws.

"This is an issue on which people around the country are ahead of the politicians," Frank said. "Many elected officials are hesitant to support any proposals that might be viewed as weakening our drug laws, but I believe this is a common sense idea that will give some people who are suffering a measure of relief."

"If there are doctors willing to recommend the use of marijuana for their patients, and states willing to permit it" Frank added, "I think it's wrong for the federal government to subject either the doctors or the patients to criminal prosecution. Nothing in this proposal would make marijuana more available for the general population. The bill is limited to medicinal use of marijuana with a doctor's approval. The bill does, however, offer a challenge to conservatives who often profess their support for states' rights. I am delighted that some of my conservative colleagues, including Congressmen Ron Paul and Dana Rohrabacher, along with former Reagan Administration official Lyn Nofziger, have joined in this effort."

I would add that taking legal action against those who use small quantities of marijuana for medical purposes is a highly questionable use of scarce prosecutorial resources at a time when they could be put to much better use," Frank continued. "Of course, some observers of this debate have pointed out that the U.S. Supreme Court recently refused to hear a medical marijuana case, but the ruling in the case was simply that the Constitution is neutral on this subject. Specifically, the majority opinion by Clarence Thomas stated that Congress is free to change the law in this area if it wishes to do so. Indeed, the California Supreme Court recently ruled that residents of that state who grow or use marijuana for personal medical use cannot be prosecuted under state law as long as they are using it under a doctor's direction. Despite this decision, Californians can still be brought up on federal charges, leaving large numbers of sick people in a very uncertain position. In fact, in the first federal trial of its kind, a medical marijuana provider who is also a patient was convicted earlier this month of conspiracy and drug manufacturing, and he is now facing at least 10 years in prison."

"I firmly believe we should end this uncertainty and unfairness for people in any state that chooses to adopt a medical marijuana law," Frank concluded."



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