(Reprinted with permission of the NORML Foundation, http://www.norml.org/)
March 5, 1998, Washington, DC: A coalition of Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee approved a "sense of the House of Representatives" resolution on Wednesday stating that "marijuana is a dangerous and addictive drug and should not be legalized for medical use." House Resolution 372 -- introduced by Crime Subcommittee chair Bill McCollum (R-Fla.) -- was approved by a voice vote despite efforts by several Democrats to kill or amend the measure.
"Medical marijuana is a public health issue," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who vigorously argued against the bill. "[It] is not part of the 'War on Drugs.'" Also speaking in opposition to the measure were Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), ranking Democrat on the committee, and Reps. William Delahunt (D-MA), Barney Frank (D-MA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Martin Meehan (D-MA), and Melvin Watt (D-NC).
Before passing the resolution, Republicans rejected an amendment offered by Rep. Conyers that stated "States have the primary responsibility for protecting the health and safety of their citizens, and the Federal Government should not interfere with any state's policy (as expressed in a legislative enactment or referendum) which authorizes persons with AIDS or cancer to pursue, upon the recommendation of a licensed physician, a course of treatment for such illness that includes the use of marijuana." Republicans also rejected an amendment proposed by Rep. Martin Meehan (D-MA) calling on the House of Representatives to "consider this issue... deserving of further study." Republicans argued that any lifting of the legal ban prohibiting marijuana, even for medical purposes, would send mixed and potentially dangerous messages to the American public about drug use. Rep. McCollum -- who sponsored legislation to permit the legal use of medical marijuana in 1981 and 1983 -- further charged that it would be "counterproductive" for Congress to encourage medical marijuana research or request the Food and Drug Administration to review the drug's prohibitive status.
"[I] do not want to go on record supporting another study [on medical marijuana,]" McCollum said. "[Congress] must send a clear message [that] ... marijuana is a highly addictive Schedule I drug ... with no likelihood of FDA approval." Rep. McCollum also said that he no longer supports the stance he took in the 1980s when he urged the federal government to make marijuana legal as a medicine.
"The Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are willing to ignore the science and deny an effective medication to seriously ill patients in order to advance their political agenda," charged NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. For example, Stroup noted that Rep. James Rogan (R-Calif.) voted for the resolution despite declaring that he observed a seriously ill family member successfully use marijuana as a medicine. Two Democrats who opposed the resolution also gave personal testimonials of a friend or family member's battle with terminal illness. One representative also admitted that her friend found therapeutic relief from marijuana.
"Republicans apparently are not willing to let scientific evidence, compassion, or common sense get in the way of arresting and jailing marijuana smokers -- even those who are seriously or terminally ill," Stroup said.
The resolution now goes for consideration before the full House. For more information or a copy of House Res. 372, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500.