Naked City

Weed Watch: Small Congressional Gains

On June 15, the U.S. House of Representatives shot down a bipartisan measure that would ban the Department of Justice from using taxpayer money to arrest, jail, and prosecute medi-pot patients using marijuana in compliance with state law. The so-called Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, which was attached to the DOJ appropriations bill, failed on a vote of 264-161. This is the third time the measure has been put before Congress, and though it has failed each time, the number of representatives voting in favor has continued to grow. This time around, 128 Democrats and 15 Republicans voted in favor of the measure – a gain of 17 Democratic votes and a loss of four Republican votes from 2004. Among the favorable votes were Texas Reps. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, and Ron Paul, R-Surfside. Among the no votes were Texas Reps. Chet Edwards, D-College Station, Henry Bonilla, R-San Antonio, Kevin Brady, R-Conroe, and Joe Barton, R-Ennis. The House's only Independent, Bernard Sanders of Vermont, also voted in favor of the measure.

Speaking to his colleagues from the House floor, amendment co-sponsor Maurice Hinchey, D-New York, called it "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. How can we tell very sick people that they cannot have the drug that could save their lives simply because of a narrow ideology and bias against that drug in Congress?" Practically speaking, it appears that Hinchey's plea for compassion didn't sway any of the no-voters, led by Rep. Mark Souder, R-Indiana, head of the House drug policy subcommittee, who claims that medi-pot legalization is merely an effort to legalize pot for recreational use. Nonetheless, nationwide support for medi-pot continues to grow; in the latest Mason-Dixon poll, released June 14, 73% of Democrats and 63% of Republicans polled said that the federal government should not be prosecuting medi-pot patients.

In other weedy news, on June 23, Rep. Ron Paul officially introduced the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, which would free states from federal restrictions and allow for state regulation of hemp farming. Currently all hemp products sold in the U.S. are manufactured from raw hemp that has been imported (mainly from Canada, Europe, or China). Among the U.S. companies offering hemp products are Interface, the world's largest manufacturer of commercial carpet and carpet tiles; FlexForm Technologies, an Indiana-based company that makes natural fiber car carpeting; and Adidas USA, which has been selling hemp sneakers since 1995. So far 26 states have introduced hemp legislation and six – Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, and West Virginia – have passed legislation to legalize the practice. Those laws are currently dormant, however, since federal law requires the Drug Enforcement Administration to approve any and all hemp farming ventures – and so far the DEA has only issued a single hemp farming license, which has since expired, to growers in Hawaii.

Got something to say on the subject? Send a letter to the editor.

  • More of the Story

  • Naked City

    Naked City

    Buda rock-crusher and quarry continues to make waves
  • Naked City

    Capitalizing on the grassroots fervor that defines the Dean Democrat

    Naked City

    Grand jury indicts West Texas compound leader on messin'-with-minor charges

    Naked City

    Members of Texas Campaign for the Environment joined local community groups in denouncing Gov. Perry's decision to sign a bill that will eliminate statewide, mandatory public meetings for hazardous waste sites, landfills, sludge dumps, and other trash facilities.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle