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The People Support Medical Marijuana, Even If Congress Does Not

After retaining the right to arrest medical marijuana patients and caregivers, ONDCP's Tom Riley was unable to contain his glee:
Riley called the vote "a really tough day" for backers of the medical marijuana legislation.


"More and more people are realizing there is a con going on…" [Reuters]
This is just false on so many levels. For starters, we're gaining votes every year and we know more or less what to expect. Yesterday's result is not some sort of shocking rebuke of our position. If anything, Riley should be a bit concerned that 165 members of Congress think his whole team has its head up its collective posterior.

Similarly, Riley's assertion that "more and more people" are turning against medical marijuana is utter nonsense. We would have liked to get more votes, of course, but this is still the most support medical marijuana has seen in Congress. Public support for medical marijuana is far greater, hovering between 70% and 80%. Riley knows perfectly well that this issue is a full-blown public relations nightmare for his office, and he should be supremely grateful that idiocy about medical marijuana is better represented in Congress than the general population.
Location: 
United States

photos from LA raid aftermath on LAist web site

Photos from the aftermath of the raid on LA's Cannabis Patients Group coop, including the civil disobedience action, can be found online here.
Location: 
Los Angeles, CA
United States

Photo Essay: Hollywood Medical Marijuana DEA Raid

Location: 
Los Angeles, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
LAist (CA)
URL: 
http://laist.com/2007/07/27/medical_marijuana_dea_raids.php

McNerney draws fire from backers of medicinal pot

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States
Publication/Source: 
San Francisco Chronicle
URL: 
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/07/27/MNG6FR7OQG1.DTL

Analysis: Who Voted for Medical Marijuana This Time? Breakdown by Vote, Party, and Changes from '06

(In addition to the information we published Wednesday night in the Speakeasy blog, we have now identified which members not voting on Hinchey last year are newly-elected vs. which ones simply didn't vote on it.)

The Hinchey results are in, losing by a vote of 165-262. This is only a very slight improvement over last year, when we lost 163-259. Here's a summary of the key stats:

  • 165 members of Congress voted for the Hinchey medical marijuana amendment this year (150 of them Democrats), but 262 members of Congress voted against it. Ten members did not have votes recorded (plus Pelosi, for some technical reason as Speaker).
  • 78 Democrats voted against the amendment, while 15 Republicans voted for it.
  • Nine members who voted Yes on the amendment last year switched their votes to No this time (hiss), and three who voted No last year switched to Yes.
  • 27 members of Congress who are either newly-elected or did not have a vote recorded on the Hinchey amendment last year, voted Yes, only one of them Republican.
  • 45 members of Congress who are either newly-elected, or did not vote on the amendment last year, voted No, including 24 Democrats and 21 Republicans.
  • Two members of Congress who voted Yes last year did not vote on the amendment this year, and seven members who voted No last year also didn't vote this year.

Following is a detailed compilation covering all the stats listed above:

165 members of Congress voted for the Hinchey medical marijuana amendment this year:

Abercrombie (D-HI)
Ackerman (D-NY)
Allen (D-ME)
Andrews (D-NJ)
Baird (D-WA)
Baldwin (D-WI)
Bartlett (R-MD)
Becerra (D-CA)
Berkley (D-NV)
Berman (D-CA)
Bishop (D-GA)
Bishop (D-NY)
Blumenauer (D-OR)
Brady (D-PA)
Broun (R-GA)
Campbell (R-CA)
Capps (D-CA)
Capuano (D-MA)
Carnahan (D-MO)
Carson (D-IN)
Christensen (D-VI)
Clay (D-MO)
Cleaver (D-MO)
Cohen (D-TN)
Conyers (D-MI)
Courtney (D-CT)
Crowley (D-NY)
Davis (D-CA)
Davis (D-IL)
DeFazio (D-OR)
DeGette (D-CO)
Delahunt (D-MA)
DeLauro (D-CT)
Doggett (D-TX)
Doyle (D-PA)
Ellison (D-MN)
Emanuel (D-IL)
Engel (D-NY)
Eshoo (D-CA)
Farr (D-CA)
Fattah (D-PA)
Filner (D-CA)
Flake (R-AZ)
Frank (D-MA)
Garrett (R-NJ)
Giffords (D-AZ)
Gilchrest (R-MD)
Gonzalez (D-TX)
Green, Al (D-TX)
Grijalva (D-AZ)
Gutierrez (D-IL)
Hare (D-IL)
Harman (D-CA)
Hastings (D-FL)
Higgins (D-NY)
Hinchey (D-NY)
Hirono (D-HI)
Hodes (D-NH)
Holt (D-NJ)
Honda (D-CA)
Hooley (D-OR)
Hoyer (D-MD)
Inslee (D-WA)
Israel (D-NY)
Jackson (D-IL)
Jackson-Lee (D-TX)
Johnson (D-GA)
Johnson (R-IL)
Johnson, E. B. (D-TX)
Jones (D-OH)
Kanjorski (D-PA)
Kaptur (D-OH)
Kennedy (D-RI)
Kildee (D-MI)
Kilpatrick (D-MI)
Kind (D-WI)
Kucinich (D-OH)
Langevin (D-RI)
Lantos (D-CA)
Larson (D-CT)
LaTourette (R-OH)
Lee (D-CA)
Lewis (D-GA)
Loebsack (D-IA)
Lofgren (D-CA)
Lowey (D-NY)
Maloney (D-NY)
Markey (D-MA)
Matsui (D-CA)
McCarthy (D-NY)
McCollum (D-MN)
McDermott (D-WA)
McGovern (D-MA)
McNulty (D-NY)
Melancon (D-LA)
Miller, George (D-CA)
Mitchell (D-AZ)
Moore (D-KS)
Moore (D-WI)
Moran (D-VA)
Murphy (D-CT)
Murtha (D-PA)
Nadler (D-NY)
Napolitano (D-CA)
Neal (D-MA)
Norton (D-DC)
Oberstar (D-MN)
Obey (D-WI)
Olver (D-MA)
Pallone (D-NJ)
Pascrell (D-NJ)
Pastor (D-AZ)
Paul (R-TX)
Payne (D-NJ)
Perlmutter (D-CO)
Peterson (D-MN)
Porter (R-NV)
Price (D-NC)
Rangel (D-NY)
Rehberg (R-MT)
Renzi (R-AZ)
Rodriguez (D-TX)
Rohrabacher (R-CA)
Rothman (D-NJ)
Roybal-Allard (D-CA)
Royce (R-CA)
Ruppersberger (D-MD)
Rush (D-IL)
Ryan (D-OH)
Sanchez, Linda T. (D-CA)
Sanchez, Loretta (D-CA)
Sarbanes (D-MD)
Schakowsky (D-IL)
Schiff (D-CA)
Scott (D-GA)
Scott (D-VA)
Serrano (D-NY)
Sestak (D-PA)
Shea-Porter (D-NH)
Sherman (D-CA)
Sires (D-NJ)
Slaughter (D-NY)
Solis (D-CA)
Sutton (D-OH)
Tancredo (R-CO)
Tauscher (D-CA)
Thompson (D-CA)
Tierney (D-MA)
Towns (D-NY)
Udall (D-CO)
Udall (D-NM)
Van Hollen (D-MD)
Velazquez (D-NY)
Walz (D-MN)
Waters (D-CA)
Watson (D-CA)
Watt (D-NC)
Waxman (D-CA)
Weiner (D-NY)
Welch (D-VT)
Wexler (D-FL)
Woolsey (D-CA)
Wu (D-OR)
Wynn (D-MD)
Yarmuth (D-KY)

... but 262 members of Congress voted against it:

Aderholt (R-AL)
Akin (R-MO)
Alexander (R-LA)
Altmire (D-PA)
Arcuri (D-NY)
Baca (D-CA)
Bachmann (R-MN)
Baker (R-LA)
Barrett (R-SC)
Barrow (D-GA)
Barton (R-TX)
Bean (D-IL)
Berry (D-AR)
Biggert (R-IL)
Bilbray (R-CA)
Bilirakis (R-FL)
Bishop (R-UT)
Blackburn (R-TN)
Blunt (R-MO)
Boehner (R-OH)
Bonner (R-AL)
Bono (R-CA)
Boozman (R-AR)
Boren (D-OK)
Boswell (D-IA)
Boustany (R-LA)
Boyd (D-FL)
Boyda (D-KS)
Bradley (R-NH)
Brady (R-TX)
Braley (D-IA)
Brown (D-FL)
Brown (R-SC)
Brown-Waite, Ginny (R-FL)
Buchanan (R-FL)
Burgess (R-TX)
Burton (R-IN)
Butterfield (D-NC)
Buyer (R-IN)
Calvert (R-CA)
Camp (R-MI)
Cannon (R-UT)
Cantor (R-VA)
Capito (R-WV)
Cardoza (D-CA)
Carney (D-PA)
Carter (R-TX)
Castle (R-DE)
Castor (D-FL)
Chabot (R-OH)
Chandler (D-KY)
Clyburn (D-SC)
Coble (R-NC)
Cole (R-OK)
Conaway (R-TX)
Cooper (D-TN)
Costa (D-CA)
Costello (D-IL)
Cramer (D-AL)
Crenshaw (R-FL)
Cuellar (D-TX)
Culberson (R-TX)
Cummings (D-MD)
Davis (D-AL)
Davis (D-TN)
Davis (R-KY)
Davis, David (R-TN)
Davis, Tom (R-VA)
Deal (R-GA)
Dent (R-PA)
Diaz-Balart, L. (R-FL)
Diaz-Balart, M. (R-FL)
Dicks (D-WA)
Dingell (D-MI)
Donnelly (D-IN)
Doolittle (R-CA)
Drake (R-VA)
Dreier (R-CA)
Duncan (R-TN)
Edwards (D-TX)
Ehlers (R-MI)
Ellsworth (D-IN)
Emerson (R-MO)
English (R-PA)
Etheridge (D-NC)
Everett (R-AL)
Faleomavaega (D-AS)
Fallin (R-OK)
Feeney (R-FL)
Ferguson (R-NJ)
Forbes (R-VA)
Fortenberry (R-NE)
Fortuno (R-PR)
Fossella (R-NY)
Foxx (R-NC)
Franks (R-AZ)
Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)
Gallegly (R-CA)
Gerlach (R-PA)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Gillmor (R-OH)
Gingrey (R-GA)
Gohmert (R-TX)
Goode (R-VA)
Goodlatte (R-VA)
Gordon (D-TN)
Granger (R-TX)
Graves (R-MO)
Green, Gene (D-TX)
Hall (D-NY)
Hall (R-TX)
Hastert (R-IL)
Hastings (R-WA)
Hayes (R-NC)
Heller (R-NV)
Hensarling (R-TX)
Herger (R-CA)
Herseth (D-SD)
Hill (D-IN)
Hinojosa (D-TX)
Hobson (R-OH)
Hoekstra (R-MI)
Holden (D-PA)
Hulshof (R-MO)
Hunter (R-CA)
Inglis (R-SC)
Issa (R-CA)
Jefferson (D-LA)
Jindal (R-LA)
Johnson, Sam (R-TX)
Jones (R-NC)
Jordan (R-OH)
Kagen (D-WI)
Keller (R-FL)
King (R-IA)
King (R-NY)
Kingston (R-GA)
Kirk (R-IL)
Klein (D-FL)
Kline (R-MN)
Knollenberg (R-MI)
Kuhl (R-NY)
Lamborn (R-CO)
Lampson (D-TX)
Larsen (D-WA)
Latham (R-IA)
Levin (D-MI)
Lewis (R-CA)
Lewis (R-KY)
Linder (R-GA)
Lipinski (D-IL)
LoBiondo (R-NJ)
Lucas (R-OK)
Lungren (R-CA)
Lynch (D-MA)
Mack (R-FL)
Mahoney (D-FL)
Manzullo (R-IL)
Marchant (R-TX)
Matheson (D-UT)
McCarthy (R-CA)
McCaul (R-TX)
McCotter (R-MI)
McCrery (R-LA)
McHenry (R-NC)
McHugh (R-NY)
McIntyre (D-NC)
McKeon (R-CA)
McMorris (R-WA)
McNerney (D-CA)
Meek (D-FL)
Meeks (D-NY)
Mica (R-FL)
Miller (D-NC)
Miller (R-FL)
Miller (R-MI)
Miller, Gary (R-CA)
Mollohan (D-WV)
Moran (R-KS)
Murphy (R-PA)
Murphy, Patrick (D-PA)
Musgrave (R-CO)
Myrick (R-NC)
Neugebauer (R-TX)
Nunes (R-CA)
Ortiz (D-TX)
Pearce (R-NM)
Pence (R-IN)
Peterson (R-PA)
Petri (R-WI)
Pickering (R-MS)
Pitts (R-PA)
Platts (R-PA)
Poe (R-TX)
Pomeroy (D-ND)
Price (R-GA)
Pryce (R-OH)
Putnam (R-FL)
Radanovich (R-CA)
Rahall (D-WV)
Ramstad (R-MN)
Regula (R-OH)
Reichert (R-WA)
Reyes (D-TX)
Reynolds (R-NY)
Rogers (R-AL)
Rogers (R-KY)
Rogers (R-MI)
Roskam (R-IL)
Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
Ross (D-AR)
Ryan (R-WI)
Salazar (D-CO)
Sali (R-ID)
Saxton (R-NJ)
Schmidt (R-OH)
Schwartz (D-PA)
Sensenbrenner (R-WI)
Sessions (R-TX)
Shadegg (R-AZ)
Shays (R-CT)
Shimkus (R-IL)
Shuler (D-NC)
Shuster (R-PA)
Simpson (R-ID)
Skelton (D-MO)
Smith (D-WA)
Smith (R-NE)
Smith (R-NJ)
Smith (R-TX)
Snyder (D-AR)
Souder (R-IN)
Space (D-OH)
Spratt (D-SC)
Stearns (R-FL)
Stupak (D-MI)
Sullivan (R-OK)
Tanner (D-TN)
Taylor (D-MS)
Terry (R-NE)
Thompson (D-MS)
Thornberry (R-TX)
Tiahrt (R-KS)
Tiberi (R-OH)
Turner (R-OH)
Upton (R-MI)
Visclosky (D-IN)
Walberg (R-MI)
Walden (R-OR)
Walsh (R-NY)
Wamp (R-TN)
Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)
Weldon (R-FL)
Weller (R-IL)
Westmoreland (R-GA)
Whitfield (R-KY)
Wicker (R-MS)
Wilson (D-OH)
Wilson (R-NM)
Wilson (R-SC)
Wolf (R-VA)
Young (R-FL)

10 members did not have votes recorded (plus Pelosi, for some technical reason as Speaker):

Bachus (R-AL)
Boucher (D-VA)
Clarke (D-NY)
Cubin (R-WY)
Davis, Jo Ann (R-VA)
LaHood (R-IL)
Marshall (D-GA)
Michaud (D-ME)
Stark (D-CA)
Young (R-AK)

78 Democrats voted against the amendment:

Altmire (D-PA)
Arcuri (D-NY)
Baca (D-CA)
Barrow (D-GA)
Bean (D-IL)
Berry (D-AR)
Boren (D-OK)
Boswell (D-IA)
Boyd (D-FL)
Boyda (D-KS)
Braley (D-IA)
Brown (D-FL)
Butterfield (D-NC)
Cardoza (D-CA)
Carney (D-PA)
Castor (D-FL)
Chandler (D-KY)
Clyburn (D-SC)
Cooper (D-TN)
Costa (D-CA)
Costello (D-IL)
Cramer (D-AL)
Cuellar (D-TX)
Cummings (D-MD)
Davis (D-AL)
Davis (D-TN)
Dicks (D-WA)
Dingell (D-MI)
Donnelly (D-IN)
Edwards (D-TX)
Ellsworth (D-IN)
Etheridge (D-NC)
Faleomavaega (D-AS)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Gordon (D-TN)
Green, Gene (D-TX)
Hall (D-NY)
Herseth (D-SD)
Hill (D-IN)
Hinojosa (D-TX)
Holden (D-PA)
Jefferson (D-LA)
Kagen (D-WI)
Klein (D-FL)
Lampson (D-TX)
Larsen (D-WA)
Levin (D-MI)
Lipinski (D-IL)
Lynch (D-MA)
Mahoney (D-FL)
Matheson (D-UT)
McIntyre (D-NC)
McNerney (D-CA)
Meek (D-FL)
Meeks (D-NY)
Miller (D-NC)
Mollohan (D-WV)
Murphy, Patrick (D-PA)
Ortiz (D-TX)
Pomeroy (D-ND)
Rahall (D-WV)
Reyes (D-TX)
Ross (D-AR)
Salazar (D-CO)
Schwartz (D-PA)
Shuler (D-NC)
Skelton (D-MO)
Smith (D-WA)
Snyder (D-AR)
Space (D-OH)
Spratt (D-SC)
Stupak (D-MI)
Tanner (D-TN)
Taylor (D-MS)
Thompson (D-MS)
Visclosky (D-IN)
Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)
Wilson (D-OH)

... while 15 Republicans voted for it:

Bartlett (R-MD)
Broun (R-GA)
Campbell (R-CA)
Flake (R-AZ)
Garrett (R-NJ)
Gilchrest (R-MD)
Johnson (R-IL)
LaTourette (R-OH)
Paul (R-TX)
Porter (R-NV)
Rehberg (R-MT)
Renzi (R-AZ)
Rohrabacher (R-CA)
Royce (R-CA)
Tancredo (R-CO)

Nine members who voted Yes on the amendment last year switched their votes to No this time (hiss):

Brown (D-FL)
Burton (R-IN)
Butterfield (D-NC)
Clyburn (D-SC)
Dicks (D-WA)
Jefferson (D-LA)
Meeks (D-NY)
Smith (D-WA)
Thompson (D-MS)

... while three who voted No last year switched to Yes:

Emanuel (D-IL)
Peterson (D-MN)
Renzi (R-AZ)

There are 27 members of Congress who were either elected for the first time last November, or did not have a vote recorded on the Hinchey amendment last year, who voted Yes, only one of them Republican:

(Most are freshmen; the several marked with an asterisk were members of Congress last time but did not vote on the amendment.)

Broun (R-GA)
Christensen (D-VI)*
Cohen (D-TN)
Courtney (D-CT)
Ellison (D-MN)
Giffords (D-AZ)
Gonzalez (D-TX)*
Hare (D-IL)
Hirono (D-HI)
Hodes (D-NH)
Johnson (D-GA)
Kanjorski (D-PA)
Loebsack (D-IA)
Mitchell (D-AZ)
Murphy (D-CT)
Norton (D-DC)*
Perlmutter (D-CO)
Rodriguez (D-TX)
Sarbanes (D-MD)
Schakowsky (D-IL)*
Sestak (D-PA)
Shea-Porter (D-NH)
Sires (D-NJ)
Sutton (D-OH)
Walz (D-MN)
Welch (D-VT)
Yarmuth (D-KY)

45 members of Congress who are either newly-elected, or did not vote on the amendment last year, voted No, including 24 Democrats and 21 Republicans:

(Most are freshmen; the several marked with an asterisk were members of Congress last time but did not vote on the amendment.)

Altmire (D-PA)
Arcuri (D-NY)
Bachmann (R-MN)
Bilirakis (R-FL)
Boyda (D-KS)
Braley (D-IA)
Buchanan (R-FL)
Cannon (R-UT)
Carney (D-PA)
Castor (D-FL)
Davis, David (R-TN)
Donnelly (D-IN)
Ellsworth (D-IN)
Faleomavaega (D-AS)*
Fallin (R-OK)
Fortuno (R-PR)*
Gerlach (R-PA)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Hall (D-NY)
Hastert (R-IL)*
Heller (R-NV)
Hill (D-IN)
Holden (D-PA)
Johnson, Sam (R-TX)
Jordan (R-OH)
Kagen (D-WI)
Klein (D-FL)
Lamborn (R-CO)
Lampson (D-TX)
Mahoney (D-FL)
McCarthy (R-CA)
McNerney (D-CA)
Murphy, Patrick (D-PA)
Poe (R-TX)
Roskam (R-IL)
Sali (R-ID)
Shays (R-CT)*
Shuler (D-NC)
Smith (R-NE)
Souder (R-IN)*
Space (D-OH)
Stupak (D-MI)*
Taylor (D-MS)*
Walberg (R-MI)
Wilson (D-OH)

(At least two of these, Souder & Hastert, are known to be have always been strong opponents of medical marijuana.)

Two members of Congress who voted Yes last year did not vote on the amendment this year:

Michaud (D-ME)
Stark (D-CA)

... and seven members who voted No last year also didn't vote this year:

Bachus (R-AL)
Boucher (D-VA)
Cubin (R-WY)
Davis, Jo Ann (R-VA)
LaHood (R-IL)
Marshall (D-GA)
Young (R-AK)

First Amendment: Freaked Out Feds Indict Pair for Posting Flyers Naming Snitch

A federal grand jury in Philadelphia Tuesday indicted two people, an accused drug dealer and his girlfriend, for passing out flyers naming a confidential informant in his federal drug case as a snitch. No law protects informants from having their identities made public, but federal prosecutors pushed -- and succeeded -- in this case for an indictment on witness intimidation and conspiracy charges.

The information on the flyers came from the Who's A Rat? web site, which lists information on more than 4,300 informants and 400 undercover officers. US Attorney Patrick Meehan called the web site "the new enemy" of law enforcement and its snitches.

"It's a by-product of the stop-snitching culture that we should all find deeply disturbing," Meehan said at a news conference, and "has the potential to compromise countless prosecutions across the country."

Meehan conceded the web site is protected by the First Amendment, but decided to indict the pair anyway for trying to intimidate witnesses.

The two are Joseph Davis, currently serving a 17-year sentence for PCP trafficking, thanks in part to the informant targeted in the flyers, and his girlfriend, 24-year-old Adero Miwo. Davis and the informant were both indicted in the PCP case, and the informant, known as "D.S." turned state's evidence and testified against Davis.

Davis and Miwo allegedly then distributed flyers naming D.S. as a snitch on windshields, utility poles, and mailboxes in the West Philadelphia neighborhood where he lived. Relying on information posted on Who's A Rat, the pair produced flyers accusing him of informing and showing his photo, along with the following comment: "This guy is a drunk, and heavy weed smoker, and a recognized car thief among his peers. He is the one who needs to be taken off the streets," according to court documents.

Davis, who is already behind bars, faces up to another 10 years in prison, while Miwo faces up to three years.

Law enforcement authorities across the US have complained loudly that the "stop snitching" movement that has spread around the country is preventing them from solving crimes. Who's a Rat isn't helping, they complain.

Such web sites show a "profound lack of respect" for the legal system, complained JP Weis, head of the Philadelphia FBI office. "The warped message" on city streets, he said, "is that it's somehow worse to provide information about a crime than it is to actually commit a crime." And that, Weis said, is "mind-boggling."

Neither Weis nor Meehan addressed why there is a "profound lack of respect" for the legal system or what role the drug war, much of it built around coercing people into becoming informants, has to do with the situation.

Who's a Rat spokesman Chris Brown told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the web site posts public information submitted by others and is protected by the First Amendment. Brown said he "can't believe that someone got indicted for hanging a flyer" and that such publicity only "makes the site that much more popular."

Feature: Minor Gains in Bid to Get Congress to Block Federal Raids on Medical Marijuana Patients, Providers

The House of Representatives Wednesday night voted down the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment to the Justice-Commerce-Science appropriations bill. The amendment would have barred the Justice Department from using federal funds to target medical marijuana patients and providers in the 12 states where it is currently legal.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/mauricehinchey.jpg
Rep. Maurice Hinchey addresses 2005 medical marijuana press conference as Montel Williams awaits his turn at the podium
The vote came only hours after DEA agents upped the ante in its battle against medical marijuana in California by raiding 10 dispensaries in the Los Angeles area. And it came only a few days after the DEA opened a new battlefront in its war by sending letters to dispensary landlords threatening them with seizure of their properties or even criminal charges if they continue to rent to dispensaries. (See feature story this issue here).

The vote also came after spirited debate on the House floor. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) related an emotional story about a close friend, a Navy SEAL, who died of pancreatic cancer, but used medical marijuana in his final months to ease his suffering. (Rep. Cohen distributed an email Thursday linking to a YouTube copy of his speech.)

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a cosponsor of the amendment, hit a similar note talking about the cancer deaths of his mother and brother. "If marijuana would have helped them, it would have been a horrible thing to think that federal agents would have come in and interfered with that, if their doctor had recommended it," he said.

But Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL) said medical marijuana was no more than a stalking horse for potheads. "Most people who want to use it want to get high," he said. Weldon also made the false and outrageous claim that marijuana "does cause cancer. I've seen it."

Rep. David McNerney (D-CA), a freshman member and the only member of the Bay Area congressional delegation to vote against the measure linked medical marijuana to the broader war on drugs. "We are facing a drug crisis with meth and other drug use on the rise. Until we get a handle on the crippling drug use in our society, I cannot support the relaxation of current drug policy,'' McNerney said in a statement after the vote. "I have spoken to many law enforcement officials concerned about the effect of drug use on our communities, particularly in San Joaquin County. The problem is real."

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Freshmen Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) spoke in support of the amendment.
"Not only does this amendment hurt law enforcement's efforts to combat drug trafficking, but it sends the wrong message. Marijuana is the most widely abused drug in the United States,'' said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ).

The vote was 165-262, the largest "yes" vote in the five years the amendment has been offered. One hundred fifty Democrats and 15 Republicans voted for the measure, while 79 Democrats and 183 Republicans voted against it.

While supporters did not expect to win this year, they had hoped to gain 15 or 20 votes over last year's 164 "yes" votes. Instead, the gained was a disappointing two.

The amendment's cosponsor, Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), while disappointed in his colleagues, said he was "encouraged" by the vote. "It is unconscionable to me that the federal government would seek to not only deny, but arrest and prosecute, medical marijuana patients who are using the drug in accordance with state law to relieve pain and nausea associated with debilitating illnesses such as cancer, AIDS, and multiple sclerosis," Hinchey said shortly after the vote. "What we tried to do on the House floor tonight was protect those patients and their doctors from unfair and inhumane efforts by the federal government to deny them the medicine they need. I am pleased that the medical marijuana amendment received a record level of support in the House and will help build upon this new level of support next year."

"We continue to make progress, but we are disappointed that with the DEA terrorizing California patients even as the House debated, Congress chose not to act," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "New studies continue to demonstrate marijuana's medical benefits, and public support is overwhelming, but many in Congress seem not to care how many patients suffer."

Opinion polls typically put nationwide support for medical marijuana in the 70% to 80% range.

With the number of "yes" votes nearly static, some drug reformers frustrated by the disconnect between Congress and public opinion on the issue are wondering if there isn't a better way. "I don't know that trying to shut off funding to law enforcement is the correct approach," said Dale Gieringer, who, as head of California NORML, is directly in the cross-fire, or at least the neighborhood. "If we want to change the medical marijuana law, we should change the law. But what I'm hearing from Congress is that members are waiting for a new administration to show some leadership."

"We're going to be doing some serious thinking about what we do next," said Bruce Mirken, MPP director of communications. "We really thought we would do better. Although the public supports this, many members of Congress treat it as if it were radioactive," he said.

"The question is: Is this the right legislative vehicle? If so, there's something we're missing," Mirken mused. "Is there a more effective way to educate members about how people in their districts feel? Is there a way of turning up the heat on Congress? We have lots of questions, but we can't pretend we have the answers at this point."

For Al Byrne, spokesman for the medical marijuana group Patients Out of Time, the answer is "yes," there is a more effective way, and that's for the activists to step aside and let the medical community take the lead. "Until this body of reform organizations can regroup and understand that it is our collective behavior as well as that of our opponents that influences politicians and the media, we will not make significant progress," he argued. "Send LEAP, MPP, DPA, and NORML out again to represent a medical issue and all we'll get is more of the same from Congress and the media. We need to elevate the discussion by letting the doctors and nurses who actually know what they're talking about speak. Then we may find a different outcome," he said.

"We definitely need more doctors and scientists educating people," said DPA director of national affairs and Washington lobbyist Bill Piper. "Clearly, some members and their staffs need to be educated, but there are a lot who are sympathetic, but afraid, so it's not just a matter of education, it's also about changing the political culture in a 'tough on crime' town. What we need is a multi-pronged approach combining education, lobbying, and grassroots work."

This year, amendment supporters started out in a hole, Piper said. "We lost about a dozen members who voted for it last year, but are no longer in office," he noted. "There are also two liberal districts with vacancies, and Nancy Pelosi didn't vote as Speaker of the House, so we started out down 15. What was surprising and disappointing is that this year we lost nine Democrats who voted for it last year."

The congressional class of 2006, the so-called New Democrats, were also a disappointment, Piper said. "We only got half of them. Many of them are from districts that were previously Republican, and that may have had them running scared," he said.

Still, said Piper, rethinking the utility of Hinchey is worth doing. "We've gained 20 votes in five years and we don't really want to wait another five years," he said. "Ultimately, the long-term objective is to change the law. It is worth rethinking what we're doing, but ultimately, a bill isn't going to go anywhere without political support."

That's right, said Paul Armentano, senior policy analyst for national NORML. "I understand people's frustration that this continues to fall well short of passage," he said. "But I also realize that if the members of Congress are unwilling to take this baby step, they are unlikely to support even more far-reaching measures. This vote shows that Congress is still cowardly on these issues; to think it would be ripe for broader drug reform seems almost like wishful thinking."

Feature: DEA Raids Ten Los Angeles Dispensaries Same Day City Council Asks It To Butt Out

In what appears to be the latest move in an ever-escalating campaign of attacks against California medical marijuana dispensaries, the DEA Wednesday raided 10 Los Angeles-area dispensaries, seizing marijuana, marijuana products, cash, and two guns. The raids came the same day the Los Angeles City Council introduced an ordinance to regulate dispensaries in the city and approved a resolution calling on federal authorities to quit prosecuting medical marijuana providers operating legally under California law.

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local news coverage
The raids did not go unchallenged, either by local officials or by activists. When DEA agents raided the Los Angeles Patients and Caregivers Group (LAPCG) on Santa Monica Boulevard, they were met by more than a hundred protestors, who blocked access to the building and surrounded DEA vehicles to prevent raiders taking away people at the dispensary. Five people were arrested in that incident.

A DEA spokesperson in Washington told the Chronicle five arrests were made during the raids, but it appears those arrests were of people engaging in civil disobedience to protest the raids -- not dispensary owners or employees.

"Some people were arrested for civil disobedience after barricading the facility itself because federal agents were detaining people inside," said Kris Hermes, communications director for Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the medical marijuana defense group whose rapid response network brings out protestors in response to such raids. "We had at least a couple of hundred people very agitated by what the DEA was doing, and some of them decided to obstruct the agents. The DEA was prevented from being able to process those inside and therefore released them," he said.

City officials who that same day had introduced an ordinance calling for a moratorium on new dispensaries in the city while it drafts regulations governing their operation, but who also called on the DEA to quit prosecuting medical marijuana providers, also reacted angrily. City Councilman Dennis Zine, who authored the letter, called the agency "bullies" at a pre-scheduled news conference that took place as the raids were ongoing.

"I am greatly disturbed that the Drug Enforcement Administration would initiate an enforcement action against medical marijuana facilities in the city of Los Angeles during a news conference regarding City Council support of an interim control ordinance to regulate all facilities within the city," Zine said. "This action by the DEA is contrary to the vote of Californians who overwhelmingly voted to support medicinal marijuana use by those facing serious and life-threatening illnesses," he said. "The DEA needs to focus their attention and enforcement action on the illegal drug dealers who are terrorizing communities in Los Angeles."

Despite the angry protests of patients, activists and elected officials, the DEA was unmoved. "The DEA is required to enforce the Controlled Substances Act," replied tight-lipped spokesperson Rogene Waite when asked about the opposition the raids are engendering. "There has been no change in our policy," she said when asked if the raids signaled a new offensive.

But despite the DEA's protestations, a ramping up of DEA activity directed at dispensaries seems evident. Dozens of dispensaries have been raided this year, including 11 in Los Angeles in January. Hundreds of medical marijuana cases are now pending in the federal courts in California. Last week, the DEA and the Justice Department announced the indictments of four dispensary operators, two in the Los Angeles area, one in San Luis Obispo, and one in Bakersfield. And earlier this month, the DEA and the Justice Department unveiled a new tactic in their war on medical marijuana: Federal authorities in Los Angeles sent a letter to dozens of dispensary landlords warning them they faced seizure of their property or even criminal charges if they continued to rent to the dispensaries.

"The DEA appears to be intensifying its campaign against medical marijuana," said ASA's Hermes. "There are not only the increased raids here in Los Angeles, but also the threats to property owners who choose to rent to medical marijuana providers. This is tantamount to intimidation, and it's a last-ditch effort by the federal government to undermine the state's medical marijuana law."

"It is an escalation, and it's very frightening," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "They can't stop medical marijuana's momentum because truth, common sense, and decency are on our side, but in the meantime they can cause a lot of suffering for a lot of people."

For California NORML head Dale Gieringer, the raids are like the final twitches of a dying dinosaur's tail. "It's a rear-guard action by the DEA," he said. "They went after the heart of responsible medical cannabis activism by going after the California Patients and Caregivers group. That's where people met to deal responsibly with the dispensary issue. This is a slap in the face to Los Angeles, and I think people there are going to end up being as angry as they already are in Northern California," he predicted.

Still, said Gieringer, the raids won't stop the dispensaries. "There are already 400 of them across the state, maybe more, who knows?" he said. "If the DEA is trying to wipe out the dispensaries, they are now several years too late."

The battle between the federal drug enforcers and the people, patients, and elected officials of California over medical marijuana continues. Congress could have taken the wind out of the DEA's sails by passing the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, which would have cut off federal funding for the raids, but it chose not to Wednesday night, just hours after the latest raids took place. That means, at least for now, it's up to the people of California to protect themselves.

Medical marijuana supporters and fellow activists will be taking steps to do just that on Friday. ASA has called for demonstrations against the raids to occur across the state Friday morning. Civil disobedience has already broken out on Santa Monica Boulevard. Maybe there will be more to come.

Henry Waxman's War

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Washington Post
URL: 
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/25/AR2007072501880.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

DEA raids 10 pot shops

Location: 
Los Angeles, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Los Angeles Times
URL: 
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-medpot26jul26,0,777205.story?coll=la-home-center

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