July 19, 2001
Bipartisan Bill to
Legalize Medical Marijuana Pending in Congress
Proposal Would Protect Patients, Doctors; Grant Leeway to State Legislatures
DC: Texas Republican Ron Paul will join Massachusetts Democrat Barney
Frank to reintroduce bipartisan legislation providing for the use of medicinal
marijuana by seriously ill patients.
The bill, scheduled to be introduced tomorrow, is identical to legislation previously introduced this year by Rep. Frank (H.R. 1344) except it no longer includes provisions mandating federal officials to provide marijuana for investigational new drug (IND) studies. That clause will be reintroduced as a separate bill at a later date, a spokesman from Rep. Frank's office said.
The Frank-Paul bill reschedules marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II under federal law so that physicians may legally prescribe it under controlled circumstances. It also permits state legislatures that wish to establish medical marijuana distribution systems the legal authority to do so.
NORML's Keith Stroup calls the proposal a streamlined effort to get medicinal marijuana to those who need it. "Historically, voters and state legislatures have been more receptive to this issue than the federal government. This legislation addresses this paradigm and effectively gets the government out of the way of those states that wish to regulate marijuana as a medicine."
Stroup said that he welcomed Congressman Paul's decision to co-sponsor the bill. "Providing an effective medicine to those seriously ill patients that need it is neither a Democrat nor Republican issue," he says. "It should be the goal of legislators from both political parties."
Since 1996, nine states - Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington - have enacted laws allowing patients to possess and use marijuana medicinally under a doctor's supervision. In March, the Supreme Court ruled that federal law forbids the manufacture and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes, but did not decide on whether individual patients may legally use marijuana in states authorizing its use.
Seventeen co-sponsors signed on to Frank's original bill. All 17, with the addition of Rep. Paul, are expected to co-sponsor the new bill.
For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, Executive Director of NORML, at (202) 483-5500 or Mark Levine at Rep. Frank's office at (202) 225-5931.
Incoming DEA Leader Mum on Medical Marijuana
DC: Representative Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.), Bush's pick to head the
Drug Enforcement Administration, refused to answer questions at Tuesday's Senate
confirmation hearing regarding whether he will encourage federal authorities to
prosecute medical marijuana providers and patients.
Marijuana is "illegal; it is harmful and there's many potential dangers," Hutchinson said, although he did not reveal if he intended to enforce federal laws outlawing the herb in those states that have approved its use medically.
Hutchinson also claimed that "the scientific community does not support the medical uses of it." In fact, a 1999 Institute of Medicine study on medicinal marijuana found: "Scientific data indicate the potential therapeutic value of cannabinoid drugs ... for pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation. ... Except for the harms associated with smoking, the adverse effects of marijuana use are within the range tolerated for other medications."
Ironically, Hutchinson is on record opposing medical marijuana research, arguing that it may compromise the war on drugs. "A study of marijuana's medicinal effectiveness ... is absolutely the wrong way to go on this issue," he told Congress in 1999. "It sends the wrong message to young people."
Hutchinson is a former Arkansas prosecutor and is serving his third term in Congress.
For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500. Media background packets on Hutchinson's drug policy record are available from NORML Communications Director Nick Thimmesch.
34,000 Students to Lose Financial Aid Under New Drug Law
DC: The Bush administration's strict enforcement of a 1998 amendment
to the Higher Education Act will deny federal loans to more than 34,000 students
this coming school year, the Associated Press reported this week.
The provision withholds grants, loans or work assistance from anyone convicted of a drug offense, including the misdemeanor possession of marijuana. Those convicted of other crimes, including violent offenses, remain eligible.
"What kind of message are we sending when we deny aid to students whose only 'crime' is that they smoked marijuana?" asked Keith Stroup, Executive Director of NORML.
Though the law took effect in 1999, it was only loosely enforced by the Clinton administration. According to the Department of Education, the government withheld aid to some 8,100 students last year after they revealed on their federal application form that they had a prior drug conviction. Students who left the question blank still received aid. A spokesperson for the Bush administration announced in February that they would bar aid to both drug offenders and those who fail to respond.
In February, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass) introduced legislation in Congress, H.R. 786, to repeal the ban. Fifty-two members of Congress have signed on to his bill, although it has yet to receive a formal hearing.
For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500. To send a letter to your member of Congress in support of Frank's bill, visit: http://capwiz.com/norml2.
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