Congressman Barney Frank To Introduce Federal Medical Marijuana Legislation Next Week

Federal legislation to provide for the medical use of marijuana will be introduced in Congress next week, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) announced today. The bill is cited as the “Medical Use of Marijuana Act.”

“I support the medicinal use of marijuana and increasingly a number of people seem to agree, as evidenced by the successful referenda in California and Arizona,” said Frank. “What we need to do to get marijuana into the hands of the truly suffering is remove the federal controls on marijuana so the states can determine this issue for themselves.”

Therefore, the pending legislation states the following:

“No provision of the Controlled Substances Act [or] … the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act shall prohibit or otherwise restrict:

(1) the prescription or recommendation of marijuana by a physician for medical use,

(2) an individual from obtaining and using marijuana from a prescription or recommendation of marijuana by a physician for medical use by such individual, or

(3) a pharmacy from obtaining and holding marijuana for the prescription of marijuana by a physician for medical use under applicable state law

in a State in which marijuana may be prescribed or recommended by a physician for medical use under applicable State law.”

The legislation reschedules marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II under federal law, thereby making it legal to prescribe. Rescheduling marijuana allows states to legally implement different systems for growing and distributing medical marijuana on a state-by-state basis. It also removes the threat of federal prosecution physicians currently face in states that already allow doctors to prescribe or recommend marijuana under state law. Presently, 24 states including the District of Columbia have laws endorsing the use of medical marijuana.

The “Medical Use of Marijuana Act” also requires the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to provide marijuana for all research projects that are FDA approved. Currently, NIDA’s refusal to supply marijuana for medical research — presumably based on the Clinton Administration’s opposition — prevents researchers from conducting federal studies on the drug’s therapeutic value. Mandating NIDA to provide marijuana for legitimate scientific endeavors will break this logjam and clear the path for further, necessaiy research in this area.

NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq., who worked with Frank’s office in drafting the language for the bill, said the legislation is a “streamlined effort to get marijuana into the hands of those seriously ill patients who require it.”

Historically, states have been more receptive to the medical marijuana issue than the federal government,” Stroup explained. “This legislation addresses this paradigm and eftectively gets the federal government out of the way of those states that wish to make marijuana available as a medicine.

The drive to permit the legal use of marijuana as a medicine took a giant leap forward in November when voters in California and Arizona overwhelmingly approved state initiatives allowing patients to use marijuana legally under a doctor’s supervision.

After watching the states act on their own [in November,] I thought the best thing to do would be to simply remove those federal restrictions which block the usefulness of a state’s decision to permit the medical use of marijuana,” explained Frank. “I’m hoping that people who say they are motivated by states’ rights on a number of issues will be consistent and support my states’ rights legislation in an area which provides a great deal of relief from suffering for a number of people.

For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500. Rep. Barney Frank’s office may be contacted at (202) 225-5931.