Congress Voting on Measure to End Medical Marijuana Raids

July 07, 2004

WASHINGTON, D.C. –The U.S. House of Representatives will be voting today or tomorrow on a bi-partisan bill to stop the federal arrest of patients in states that allow the medical use of marijuana. Last year’s debate was impassioned, with the Republican co-sponsor of the bill breaking down in tears as he recounted his mother’s losing battle with cancer and his obligation to see that she had access to any medication that would help her. 

At stake is the bi-partisan Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment to the Commerce-Justice-State Departments Appropriations bill, which would eliminate funding for federal investigations or prosecutions of patients and caregivers in the states that allow the sick and dying to use marijuana medicinally – Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Maryland, and now Vermont. 

Again sponsored by Maurice Hinchey, D-NY and Dana Rohrabacher, R-CA, the amendment last year received 152 votes in favor, only 66 short of passage. And with more states passing laws legalizing medical use or considering them, pressure on Congress to resolve the conflict between state laws and the federal prohibition is increasing. Since 1996, 11 states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington) have adopted medical marijuana laws. 

Despite this, the U.S. Justice Department continues to spend millions of federal tax dollars arresting medical marijuana patients and their caregivers - even in states where medical marijuana is legal. 

Substantial majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents support legal access to medical marijuana for patients who are helped by it. A 2002 Time/CNN national poll found that 80% of Americans support it. The Institute of Medicine has determined that nausea, appetite loss, pain and anxiety 'all can be mitigated by marijuana.' 

Allowing cancer, AIDS, and MS patients legal access to medical marijuana has been officially endorsed by the American Nurses Association, American Public Health Association, American Bar Association, and Kaiser Permanente, among other groups. 

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For interviews or comment on the significance of the vote, please contact William Dolphin at (510) 919-1498. A national coalition of 10,000 patients, doctors and advocates, Americans for Safe Access is the largest organization working solely on medical marijuana.

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