Kudos To Those Who Supported Marijuana Bill

June 08, 2004

Dave Copeland, columnist, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

I like Mike. I won't even bash him for being a Democrat.

And it's not because U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, of Swissvale, usually takes the time to return my phone calls when I'm working on deadline. And it has nothing to do with all the government dollars Doyle has brought back to Southwestern Pennsylvania to bolster our defense and robotics industries (I'm actually opposed to that, but that's another column).

Here's why I like Mike: He was one of 152 members of the U.S. House of Representatives who voted for an amendment co-sponsored by Maurice Hinchey, a New York Democrat, and Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, last summer.

In the 430-member House, of course, that's an overwhelming defeat. But it's also a small victory for people who support sensible drug laws, as it marked a 150 percent increase in Congressional support for medical marijuana since the only previous House vote on the issue five years earlier.

Doyle and fellow Democrats Robert Brady, Fattah Chaka, Paul Kanjorski and John Murtha were the only Pennsylvania reps to vote for the bill. The remaining 14, including 12 Republicans and two Democrats, voted against it.

This is where political writing gets dicey. Say you support medical marijuana, and a lot of people dismiss you as a pothead and a hippie. I'm not -- my male pattern baldness makes it difficult to grow dreadlocks.

So we'll spin this into an anti-U.S. Justice Department column. Because everybody wants to beat up on John Ashcroft these days, and that's who the Hinchey bill targets. The bill, which is up for reconsideration again this summer, forbids the Justice Department from using its resources to interfere with state medical marijuana laws.

In a world where terrorists fly planes into buildings and the nation's fear factor is color-coded by the Department of Homeland Security, the Hinchey amendment seeks to put the federal government's resources to better use. Or at least stop the Justice Department from using bully tactics to trump laws passed by Constitutionally-elected state legislatures.

As the Washington, D.C.-based Drug Reform Coordination Network says in letters you can send to your representative from their Web site at: http://www.stopthedrugwar.org -- 'aren't there more important things for DOJ to be doing that could actually make Americans safer? ... Any member of Congress who votes against the Hinchey amendment either thinks we have all the money in the world to do everything, or just doesn't take national security or crime very seriously.'



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