Pubdate: Fri, 30 Jun 2000
Source: Journal Gazette (IN)
Copyright: 2000 Journal Gazette
Contact:  600 W. Main Street, Ft. Wayne, IN. 46802
Fax: (219) 461-8648
Author: Sylvia A. Smith, Washington Editor


WASHINGTON - States shouldn't be allowed to relax laws against marijuana 
use and possession, even for medical use, Rep. Mark Souder, R-4th, said 
Thursday as he introduced a bill to pre-empt those state laws.

Souder said he wrote the legislation at the urging of organizations that 
have campaigned against efforts in states that have passed referenda to 
ease marijuana laws.

Voters in seven states have passed referenda to legalize marijuana for ill 
people, said NORML - the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana 
Laws. Also, Hawaii lawmakers voted to legalize medical use.

"When you've got 60, 65 percent of the voters in a state saying we no 
longer want to arrest patients who use medical marijuana, what business is 
it of Congress to come in and undermine that? That is truly the will of the 
people," said Keith Stoup, NORML executive director.

"Does he believe there's something undemocratic about a member of Congress 
or even Congress as a whole tossing out the will of the voters in a state?" 
he asked about Souder.

Souder doesn't.

He said billionaire George Soros and two employees paid for much of the 
legalization campaigns in the states that passed the referenda.

Soros "bought that 60 to 65" percent, Souder said. "What this shows is the 
American people are an empathetic group of people who, if they're told the 
only way to alleviate pain is this way . . ., they want to be sympathetic.

"But when they learn there are alternatives, that they've been lied to 
about the medicinal use and the fact is just a bunch of pot clubs, the 
polls flip the other direction immediately."

Souder said if the people using marijuana were truly only alleviating pain, 
police - state or federal - would look the other way.

There's already an exemption for medicinal use, he said, if a person proves 
to the Department of Health and Human Services it's necessary.

Souder said efforts to make medical use legal "is just a phony excuse to be 
a pot head."

Stroup said Souder is misguided.

"Under both state and federal law, a doctor can prescribe amphetamines, 
cocaine, barbiturates - there are any number of drugs which are dangerous 
and can be abused on the street but which have valuable uses in the hands 
of a physician. No one ever suggested that the fact that we allow cancer 
patients to regulate their own morphine, for example, when they're on a 
cancer ward - no one ever suggested that sends the wrong message to kids 
about morphine use.

"So why are we so concerned about sending the wrong message to kids when 
we're allowing sick and dying patients to use medical marijuana?" Stroup said.

He said legislation such as Souder's "suggests to me that Mr. Souder and 
the others in the Republican leadership are more interested in trying to 
show that they're tough on drugs than they are in establishing a 
compassionate program for the sick and dying."

Souder said the time has passed in which only marijuana quelled effects of 
drugs used to combat illnesses.

Now, he said, the component in marijuana that is used to counter nausea and 
pain can be taken as a pill. 
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