Pubdate: Sat, 28 Jul 2007
Source: Athens Daily News (GA)
Copyright: 2007 Athens Newspapers Inc.
Author: Blake Aued, Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


U.S. Rep. Paul Broun offered Democrats a peace pipe and sent
Republican leaders' hopes that he'd toe the party line up in smoke
this week by voting to ease federal restrictions on medical marijuana

The Republican congressman from Athens was sworn in Wednesday and cast
his first vote in the House of Representatives late that night in
support of an amendment to stop the U.S. Justice Department from
prosecuting people who distribute medical marijuana in states where it
is legal.

The measure failed 262-165, but Broun said he fulfilled his campaign
promises to respect states' rights and be independent by bucking GOP
leadership and joining just 14 other Republicans who voted for the
amendment, proposed by Reps. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y, and Dana
Rohrabacher, R-Calif.

"The voters did not send me to Washington to duck controversial
votes," Broun said Friday in a statement. "They did not send me to be
intellectually dishonest. They did not send me to be a knee-jerk
reactionary. They did not send me to be a hyper-partisan. I voted for
states rights under the Constitution, not for promoting marijuana, and
honest people understand that."

The 10th Amendment accords to the states any powers the Constitution
does not assign to the federal government, so Congress has no
authority to overrule medical marijuana laws passed by voters or state
legislatures, Broun said.

Marijuana for medical use is allowed in 10 states and the District of
Columbia, but the U.S Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that doctors,
growers, distributors and users still can face federal charges.

The effectiveness of medical marijuana is up for debate. The federal
government classifies it as a Schedule I drug, meaning it has a high
potential for abuse and no medical value, and its use is not endorsed
by mainstream medical groups like the American Cancer Society. But
several studies show marijuana can help prevent blindness in glaucoma
patients and treat pain, anxiety, loss of appetite and nausea stemming
from diseases like AIDS, cancer and multiple sclerosis.

Broun, a physician, emphasized that he strongly is against marijuana

"On the basis of morality, medical science, and the law, I am
intensely and unalterably opposed to the use of illicit drugs of any
type for so-called 'recreational purposes,' " he said.

"I will never vote to legalize the use of illicit drugs. The use of
illegal drugs, indeed, even the abuse of prescription drugs, is a
plague on our society."

Rep. John Barrow, D-Savannah, a former Athens-Clarke commissioner,
voted against the amendment, as did Georgia's six other House
Republicans besides Broun.

Democratic congressmen Sanford Bishop, Hank Johnson, John Lewis and
David Scott voted for it, and Jim Marshall did not vote.
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