Pubdate: Thu, 06 Jul 2000
Source: Journal Gazette (IN)
Copyright: 2000 Journal Gazette
Contact:  600 W. Main Street, Ft. Wayne, IN. 46802
Fax: (219) 461-8648


U.S. Rep. Mark Souder betrays his conservative roots by seeking to pass 
federal legislation prohibiting states from allowing medical use of marijuana.

States' rights is a bedrock principle of conservatism. Conservatives like 
Souder often trumpet states' rights when the federal government mandates a 
more socially liberal policy than state laws set. It should be no different 
when states act to give residents more individual liberties than federal 
law, particularly when the voters of a state directly establish the law 
through a referendum.

Souder insults voters in the seven states who passed referendums allowing 
medical use when he suggests they didn't understand what they were 
approving. Voters today are better informed than ever. They knew what they 
were doing.

The congressman further demeans voters when he says their votes were bought 
by billionaire George Soros, who financed campaigns backing the medical use 
votes. Is Souder suggesting that anyone with enough money can win a state 
referendum? If so, state laws regulating guns wouldn't be on the books 
because the powerful and well-financed gun lobby would push referendums 
removing restrictions on gun ownership. And that doesn't explain Hawaii, 
where the legislature - not referendum voters - voted to allow medical 
marijuana use.

Finally, Souder belittles the suffering incurred by cancer patients 
undergoing chemotherapy when he states that medical marijuana laws are 
"just a phony excuse to be a pot head." States that legalize medical 
marijuana can establish strict guidelines limiting use to relieving pain 
and promoting appetite in people with severe medical conditions.

Souder insists his proposal only clarifies that federal law already 
prohibits states from allowing medical use of marijuana, but that view is 
not universally accepted. Lawyers for the California legislature, for 
example, studied the issue and saw no conflict with federal law for voters 
there to allow medical use of the drug.

Judges, police, medical professionals - even lawmakers - are coming to 
realize that the nation's drug problem is extremely complex and won't be 
solved by simple laws that throw all drug users in prison.

Federal action - either by law or court rulings - is often needed to 
correct unjust state laws, particularly those that run counter to the 
Constitution. But members of Congress should not use federal law to 
restrict individual liberties granted by a state.

On this issue, the true conservative approach is best. Give states and 
cities the flexibility they need to recognize that marijuana is not cocaine 
or heroin, and cancer sufferers are not the same as recreational drug users.
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