Washington, DC: Members of the US Congress House of Representatives may vote as early as next week on an amendment to bar the US Department of Justice (DOJ) from prosecuting patients who use medical cannabis in accordance with state laws. The bi-partisan provision, to be introduced by Reps. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) as an amendment to the 2005 Justice Department appropriations bill, would prohibit the DOJ and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from spending taxpayers' dollars for the purpose of pursuing any criminal or civil penalty against patients who comply with the medical cannabis laws of their state.
The announcement of the amendment's introduction comes just days after the US Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the Justice Department has the authority to prosecute state-authorized medicinal cannabis patients for violating the federal Controlled Substances Act.
"Writing for the majority, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said that he longs for the day when medicinal cannabis advocates 'may be heard in the halls of Congress,'" NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said. "The 2005 Hinchey/Rohrabacher medical marijuana amendment does just that -- giving Congress the authority to go on record to protect and support the health and safety of patients who use cannabis therapeutically in compliance with the laws of their state."
The House of Representatives struck down a similar proposal last year by a vote of 286 to 148, with 70 percent of Democrats and 19 Republicans supporting the measure.
Said St. Pierre: "With the Supreme Court's ruling, Congress and the Justice Department have a choice. They can waste taxpayers' dollars and undermine states' rights by arresting and prosecuting seriously ill patients, or they can choose more worthwhile priorities, like protecting national security. In light of the Court's decision, we urge Congress to stand up for the rights of seriously ill patients by voting in favor of the Hinchey/Rohrabacher amendment."
For more information on the Hinchey/Rohrabacher medical marijuana amendment, please visit: http://capwiz.com/norml2/mail/oneclick_compose/?alertid=7309441. Additional information about the Supreme Court's decision is available online at: http://www.norml.org//index.cfm?Group_ID=6550