Federal Bill Reintroduced to Legalize Medical Marijuana 3/5/99

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(reprinted courtesy of NORML, http://www.norml.org)

March 2, 1999, Washington, DC: Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) reintroduced legislation today in the new Congress to provide for the medical use of marijuana. The bill is titled the "Medical Use of Marijuana Act."

"I support the medical use of marijuana," Rep. Frank announced. "What we need to do to get marijuana into the hands of people suffering is to set aside the federal controls on marijuana, so the states can determine this issue for themselves."

The proposed legislation states:

"No provision of the Controlled Substances Act [or] ... the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act shall prohibit or otherwise restrict --

(A) the prescription or recommendation of marijuana by a physician for medical use,

(B) an individual from obtaining and using marijuana from a prescription or recommendation of marijuana by a physician for medical use by such individual, or

(C) a pharmacy from obtaining and holding marijuana for the prescription of marijuana by a physician for medical use under applicable state law in a State in which marijuana may be prescribed or recommended by a physician for medical use under applicable State law."

The legislation reschedules marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II under federal law, thereby making it legal for physicians to prescribe. "This legislation ... recognize[s] that there are valid and important medicinal uses for marijuana," a statement issued by Frank's office said. "The effect of [this] bill would be to make fully operative the laws in those states which permit the medical use of marijuana, without the preemptive and controlling restrictions currently in place in federal law on the possession, use, prescription, or sale of marijuana," Frank added.

NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq., who worked with Frank's office in drafting the bill's language, said the legislation is a streamlined effort to get marijuana to those who require it. "Historically, states have been more receptive to the medical marijuana issue than the federal government," Stroup explained, noting that 36 state legislatures have passed laws recognizing marijuana's medical value. "This legislation addresses this paradigm and effectively gets the federal government out of the way of those states that wish to make marijuana available as a medicine."

Efforts to permit the legal use of medical marijuana gained momentum in November when voters in Alaska, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington joined Californians in approving initiatives exempting patients who use medical marijuana from criminal penalties. Voters in Arizona reaffirmed a medical marijuana initiative passed two years ago, and rejected a legislative requirement banning physicians from prescribing marijuana until the drug receives approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Recently, leaders of 17 national AIDS organizations called on White House officials to legalize medical marijuana for seriously ill patients.

The Medical Use of Marijuana Act also mandates federal officials to supply marijuana for medical research projects approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Recently, the United Nations International Drug Control Board recommended that the US and others conduct impartial scientific research to determine marijuana's potential medical benefits.

Congressman Frank has been joined in cosponsoring this legislation by Reps. Tom Campbell (R-CA), John Conyers (D MI), John Olver (D-MA), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Pete Stark (D-CA), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).

For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500. Rep. Barney Frank's office may be contacted at (202) 225-5931.

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