Just Say Yes To Medical Pot

June 14, 2005

EDITORIAL, San Francisco Chronicle


THE BUSH administration's ongoing crusade against medical marijuana has been a misguided waste of government resources. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that the federal government has the power to prosecute patients who legally light up in a number of states, Congress has a chance to show its leadership and legalize medical pot for patients with debilitating illnesses without fear of going to jail.

That test will come today, when members of Congress are scheduled to vote on an amendment that would prevent the Department of Justice from spending money to prosecute medical-marijuana patients in states where such use has been declared legal. The bipartisan Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment is a good- faith effort to bridge the sizable gap between states' rights and federal authority on certain medical issues.

If Congress fails to support such a commonsense approach, as it has in the previous two years, it will have abdicated the responsibility placed on it by Supreme Court justices in their decision this month. In its majority opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that 'the voices of voters allied with these (medical marijuana) respondents may one day be heard in the halls of Congress.'

That day is here, with 10 states clearly expressing a choice to regulate medical-pot laws differently, based on the will of their voters.

Suggesting that Congress should allow states to follow their own rules and regulations on medical issues is hardly a radical suggestion. The Supreme Court decision did not overturn existing state laws that permit medical use of marijuana, but rather upheld the federal government's power to regulate activities that could affect interstate commerce. The Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment is a timely, sensible and humane solution to a problem affecting seriously ill people complying with the law.

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