Pubdate: Wed, 15 Jun 2005
Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Copyright: 2005 Associated Press
Author: Andrew Taylor, The Associated Press
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


WASHINGTON -- Yes, the government can make a federal case out of medical 
marijuana use, the House said Wednesday.

Less than a week ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the government can 
medical marijuana users, even when state laws permit doctor-prescribed use 
of the drug. In response, the House rejected a bid by advocates to undercut 
the decision.

By a 264-161 vote, the House turned down an amendment that would have 
blocked the Justice Department from prosecuting people in the 10 states 
where the practice is legal.

Advocates say it is the only way that many chronically ill people, such as 
AIDS and cancer patients, can relieve their symptoms.

"It is unconscionable that we in Congress could possibly presume to tell a 
patient that he or she cannot use the only medication that has proven to 
combat the pain and symptoms associated with a devastating illness," said 
Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y.

Opponents of the amendment said it would undercut efforts to combat 
marijuana abuse. They said Marinol, a government-approved prescription drug 
that contains the active ingredient in marijuana, offers comparable relief.

"Marijuana has never been proven as safe and effective for any disease," 
said Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind. "Marijuana can increase the risk of serious 
mental health problems, and in teens, marijuana use can lead to depression, 
thoughts of suicide, and schizophrenia."

The vote came as the House debated a $57.5 billion bill covering the 
departments of Commerce, Justice and State.

Proponents of medical marijuana had hoped to gain momentum following the 
high court's ruling. A poll commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project 
found that respondents, by a 68-18 percent margin, believe that medical 
marijuana users should not face federal prosecution.

The poll, conducted June 8-11 by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, also found 
that 65 percent of those surveyed favored doctor-prescribed medical 
marijuana, with 20 percent opposed.

A similar amendment last year was defeated by a comparable margin.

"A lot of these guys voting against it are just afraid because it's a 'drug 
issue,'" said Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif. 
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