Patients Rally On Capitol Hill In Support Of Medicinal Marijuana

Members Of Congress Join Patients, Doctors And Health Care Providers To Lobby For H.R. 2233, “The States’ Rights To Medical Marijuana Act” and H.R. 1717, “The Truth In Trials Act.”

Washington, DC: Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA) and Sam Farr (D-CA) joined more than 20 seriously ill patients today at a emotional press conference on Capitol Hill calling on Congress to allow the state-sanctioned use of marijuana as a medicine. Patients, many stricken with multiple sclerosis (MS), flew in from around the nation to testify that marijuana is the only medicine that safely and adequately alleviates their suffering.

“I would not be here today were it not for medical cannabis,” explained patient Jackie Rickert from Wisconsin, who uses marijuana medicinally to treat debilitating symptoms of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. Rickert noted that she had previously received permission from the federal government to legally obtain marijuana in the early 1990s as part of the Compassionate Investigational New Drug (IND) program. However, government officials abruptly closed the program to new applicants following her approval a decision that has forced Rickert to obtain her medicine illicitly on the black market ever since.

MS patient Jeanelle Bluhm of Oregon echoed Rickert’s thoughts, saying that smoked marijuana alleviates her muscle spasms more effectively than other legal medications. “People should be able to choose with the help of their doctor the medicines that best help them,” she said, noting that her physician supports her marijuana therapy. “Disabled people just want to feel better and don’t want to be criminals.”

Several other patients, including Jay Howell of Washington, Joan Legospi of Washington, Beckie Nikkel of California, Darrell Paulson of Minnesota, John Precup of Ohio, Lisa Rasmussen of California, and Gary Storck of Wisconsin told similar stories. “How many more people must suffer and die before Congress does the right thing?” asked Storck, referring to a pair of bills in Congress that would minimize criminal penalties for medical marijuana patients.

The first, H.R. 2233, “the States’ Rights to Medical Marijuana Act,” would reschedule marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II under federal law so that physicians may prescribe it in states that have legalized the medical use of marijuana under state law. Representative Frank, who introduced the bill along with Reps. Paul (R-TX), Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Schakowski (D-IL) said, “The notion that [the federal government] would prosecute people who are trying to alleviate pain is truly appalling. … If people and their doctors agree, then federal regulators should not stand in the way.” Frank’s bill presently has 37 co-sponsors.

The second bill, H.R. 1717, “the Truth in Trials Act” would amend federal law to provide an affirmative defense for patients who use marijuana in compliance with the laws of their state, but are facing federal drug charges. Representative Farr, who sponsored the bill along with Reps. Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Woolsey (D-CA) said, “The right of a state to determine its own laws is an integral part of the Constitution and our laws today.”

To date nine states Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington have enacted laws protecting patients who use medical marijuana from state criminal prosecution.

Jim Miller of New Jersey, who helped to organize the press conference and patient lobby day on behalf of his wife Cheryl a longtime medical marijuana activist who died in June of MS-related complications, demanded Congress hold hearings and schedule votes on the Frank and Farr bills.

“Throughout much of her life, Cheryl risked arrest and jail to use the only medication that alleviated her suffering,” he said. “I hope that by bringing attention to the plight of my late wife Cheryl, I can hasten the day when marijuana will be made available so that others are no longer needlessly forced to suffer with pain or risk arrest.”

Also speaking at today’s conference were MS specialist Dr. Denis J. Petro, nurse Mary Lynn Mathre of Patients Out of Time, and NORML Senior Policy Analyst Paul Armentano, who concluded, “These are patients, not criminals, and it’s about time Congress learned the difference.”

For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, Executive Director of NORML, at (202) 483-5500 or visit: