Naked City

Medi-Pot Weed Watch

At press time, just one week after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution allows the feds to enforce the federal Controlled Substances Act by arresting and prosecuting sick medi-pot users, the U.S. House of Representatives is preparing to vote on a bipartisan amendment to the Justice Department appropriation bill that would end the practice. The so-called Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment, sponsored by Reps. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., and Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., would forbid the DOJ from using federal resources to enforce the government's drug prohibition laws against sick patients in the 10 states that have legalized medi-pot. In their ruling last week, the U.S. Supreme Court wrote that the medi-pot question was one for Congress to answer. While there may be other legal recourse, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the six-justice majority, "perhaps more important … is the democratic process, in which the voices of the voters allied with [medi-pot patients Angel Raich and Diane Monson] may one day be heard in the halls of Congress." Raich and fellow California medi-mari patient Monson – who sued the feds in 2002 seeking an end to the enforcement actions – did just that by traveling to D.C. this week to lobby for the amendment. Raich joined former Clinton-era Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders, Jim Winkler of the United Methodist Church, and Don Murphy, executive director of Republicans for Compassionate Access, for a press teleconference on June 13 urging lawmakers to vote for the amendment. "I am very, very ill," but "not a criminal," said Raich. The federal government, she said, needs to "stop locking up sick, dying, and disabled patients."

As a GOP state assemblyman, Murphy authored Maryland's medical cannabis law, making medi-pot possession punishable by a $100 fine only. Murphy told reporters that the medi-pot question is being embraced by increasing numbers of Republicans in various states – including Texas, where Rep. Terry Keel, R-Austin, filed the state's first medi-mari bill in 2001. (So far, Texas' attempted medi-pot measures have all died in committee in spite of polls that show overwhelming voter support for medi-pot protections.) Banning federal intrusion into state-decided medi-pot matters should appeal to "Republicans in particular because that is consistent with everything we say we believe," said Murphy – specifically, the notion of a smaller, less-intrusive federal government. "I find it odd that we trust law-abiding citizens with the right to carry weapons, but not the right to medicate. That is odd and inconsistent."

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