Medical Pot, After the Ruling

June 06, 2005

EDITORIAL, San Francisco Chronicle

THE U.S. Supreme Court's disappointing decision Monday allowing the federal government the power to prosecute medical-marijuana patients such as Angel Raich of Oakland and Diane Monson of Oroville (Butte County) was a setback for thousands of patients who live in states where the residents thought they had legalized medical marijuana.

But it could not have happened at a better time.

Next week, Congress will vote on the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment that would prevent the Justice Department from spending money on arresting or prosecuting medical-marijuana patients in states that have declared the use legal.

The amendment, which is part of an appropriations bill, was defeated last year but received 152 votes in Congress.

If enacted, the law would offer a temporary solution to a growing conflict between federal laws prohibiting the cultivation, possession or distribution of marijuana, and states where voters have approved the medical use of cannabis.

'As long as we can allow these patients to use their medicine without fear of prosecution, that would be good enough for us,' said Robert Raich, Angel Raich's husband and attorney. 'This amendment would, at least, take care of that for one fiscal year.'

But the change must take place at both the local and federal levels.

Local governments must run their medical cannabis programs safely and responsibly, as both San Francisco and Alameda counties have recently taken steps to do.

And Congress must step in and legalize medical marijuana, allowing thousands of patients with cancer, multiple sclerosis and other debilitating diseases a way to ease their pain without fear of being jailed.

'In its decision, the Supreme Court made it clear that the ball is now in Congress' court,'' said Angel Raich. 'I hope for myself, my children and for other patients out there that our congressional leaders put compassion first.'

Until that law is passed, let's start by urging California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein to support the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment.

You can get e-mail links to Boxer and Feinstein by going to the Web site www.senate.gov.



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