Pubdate: Sun, 26 Apr 2015
Source: Orange County Register, The (CA)
Copyright: 2015 The Orange County Register
Author: John Seiler


Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is trying to get President Barack Obama to keep 
his 2008 campaign promise to ease medical-marijuana laws. Ironically, 
the Orange County Republican, one of the most conservative members of 
Congress, is advancing an issue usually championed by liberal 
Democrats, such as the president. Both men acknowledge burning a few 
joints in their youth  and not for medicinal purposes.

On the stump in 2008, Obama pledged of state medical-marijuana laws, 
"I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to 
circumvent state laws on this issue." Once Obama was in office, his 
attorney general, Eric Holder, affirmed that stance in 2009: "It will 
not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with 
serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state 
laws on medical marijuana."

That didn't last long as Obama and Holder soon began to crack down.

To cite just one example, in August 2012, the Associated Press 
reported that Richard Flor, a "convicted Montana medical marijuana 
provider with a history of serious illness died ... after his 
transfer to a federal prison that could give him proper medical care 
was delayed for months."

At issue is the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment to the fiscal 2014-15 
federal spending bill. The amendment denied Justice Department funds 
to "prevent" the states "from implementing" their own medical-marijuana laws.

On April 2, the Los Angeles Times ran a story which reported, 
"Patrick Rodenbush, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said in a 
statement Wednesday that it did not not believe the amendment applies 
to cases against individuals or organizations.

"Rather, he said, it stops the department from 'impeding the ability 
of states to carry out their medical marijuana laws,' contrary to 
some claims from people being prosecuted that the amendment blocks 
such prosecutions."

The Rohrabacher-Farr letter was dated April 8 and read, "As the 
authors of the provision in question, we write to inform you that 
this interpretation of our amendment is emphatically wrong." It 
demanded the prosecutions cease.

Rohrabacher told me his fellow Republicans are not mad with him for 
pushing the marijuana issue. He also has called for legalization for 
recreation use, which now is legal in four states and the District of 
Columbia. Medical marijuana is allowed by state law in 24 states. 
California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana, with 
Proposition 215 in 1996.

"I have not had any animosity," Rohrabacher said. In his conservative 
48th Congressional District, which stretches along the coast from 
Seal Beach to Aliso Viejo, "No voters have said I was horrible. 
Dozens of people said they appreciate it."

He said it was ironic so many other Republicans favor limited 
government and federalism  letting the states do what they want - but 
still back tough federal marijuana laws that supercede state laws.

As to Obama reneging on his campaign pledge, the congressman charged, 
"That dramatically exposes the lie [that] he is in any way for a 
freer and more open society. People were led to believe he would 
respond in exactly the opposite way. He's trying to undo the progress 
we have made. This is an issue the American people don't want him to 
do. He is destroying the well-being of people who are suffering" from 
such ailments as cancer, for which medical marijuana can restore the 
desire to eat.

And by siding with Obama on the issue, that also "puts my Republican 
friends on the spot about their principles" advocating limited government.

He sees legalization activists as "a Third Force out there," opposed 
to both "Big Government Leftists and the Republican Personal Controllers."

My colleague Alan Bock, who died in 2011, wrote many editorials in 
the Register pushing the passage of Prop. 215 and authored the 2000 
book, "Waiting to Inhale: The Politics of Medical Marijuana." Bock 
was a friend of Rohrabacher, who also is a former Register editorial writer.

Despite the difficulties thrown up by Obama and many Republicans, the 
Third Force is winning on this issue.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom