Monday, July 29, 2002
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, all believe in the medicinal benefits of marijuana and stand behind new controversial legislation that would make it legal to prescribe to patients in pain. But Drug Enforcement Agency Director Asa Hutchinson disputes the usefulness of medical marijuana and reaffirmed it as an important target of the war on drugs.
The States’ Rights to Medical Marijuana Act would allow states that pass medical marijuana laws to be free from threat of federal prosecution, moves marijuana from a Class I to a Class II substance, and makes it available by prescription according to state law.
California, a key battleground in the weed war, is one of nine states that have passed laws allowing doctors to prescribe pot to alleviate pain. Proponents say the controlled substance has an ameliorative effect on intractable pain caused by such illnesses as cancer, AIDS and glaucoma.
But the feds have not bought it and have cranked up raids on California facilities that provide marijuana to the terminally ill.
According to a recent Fox News report, medical marijuana backer Lyn Nofziger, public affairs deputy for former President Reagan, said that his own daughter tried a series of remedies to offset the side effects of chemotherapy required to treat her cancer. Smoking marijuana helped her to regain her appetite, allowing her to gain much-needed weight, he explained.
Though she died, she lived her last days in less pain, said Nofziger. "Based on this, I've become an advocate of medical marijuana. It is truly compassionate. I sincerely hope the administration can get behind this bill."
But even Frank admits at this point there is not exactly a groundswell of support. "Many elected officials are hesitant to support any proposals that might be viewed as weakening our drug laws, but I believe this is a commonsense idea that will give some people who are suffering a measure of relief."
But optimistic for the long run, Frank said that although the bill presently has only Democratic co-sponsors, he thinks members from the other party will come around on the principle of the proposal.
Going beyond the bill's commonsense humanitarian virtues, Frank said, "This bill does offer a challenge to conservatives, who often profess their support for states' rights."
But it may just be a tough row to hoe.
"What has [Frank] been smoking?" asked Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, when
questioned about the bill.