Pubdate: Thu, 05 May 2005
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2005 News World Communications, Inc.
Author: Stephen Dinan
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Medical marijuana advocates announced a push yesterday to try to
compel the federal government not to interfere with the 10 states that
have medical marijuana laws on the books.

Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, has introduced a bill that
would exempt doctors and pharmacists in those states from prosecution
under federal drug laws, which allow the government to pursue
marijuana suppliers even if states allow doctors to prescribe the
substance as pain medication.

In announcing the bill, Mr. Frank was joined by television talk show
host Montel Williams, who uses marijuana and says it is the only thing
that has eased his suffering from multiple sclerosis.

"I'm hurting," Mr. Williams told reporters. "Why? Because I knew I had
to come to Washington, D.C., and I couldn't carry anything. I'd get

Mr. Frank's bill, which made little progress in past Congresses, has
gained bipartisan support.

"The federal government should butt out," said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher,
California Republican.

Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican, said he wanted to go beyond
protection in 10 states. "The only problem with this bill is it's so
modest," he said.

Mr. Paul said he has survived primary and general election races in
which interest groups spent a total of $2 million to try to defeat him
based primarily on his position on drug policy. He said his wins in
those races in a conservative, Bible Belt district should sway other
members of Congress who agree with him, but vote differently out of
fear of political ramifications.

"I hope my example is such that maybe they'll reconsider that and vote
the right way," he said.

For the bill to be considered on the House floor, it first must get
past Rep. Mark Souder, Indiana Republican and chairman of the
Government Reform subcommittee on criminal justice, drug policy and
human resources.

"Marijuana is not medicine," Mr. Souder said last year in introducing
a bill calling on the Food and Drug Administration to disseminate
information about the health and safety of smoking marijuana to those
who advocate its use for health reasons.

"Patients who are smoking marijuana are being denied legitimate care
that could improve rather than worsen their medical conditions," Mr.
Souder said.

Medical marijuana supporters want to try to work around Mr. Souder and
his subcommittee.

Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey, New York Democrat, promised to offer an
amendment to one of this year's spending bills to prohibit the Justice
Department from interfering with doctors who deem marijuana the proper
course of medical treatment.
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