In a one-sided dog-and-pony show sponsored by the House Government Reform Committee's criminal justice subcommittee as part of the political run-up to Wednesday's Supreme Court arguments on medical marijuana, GOP drug war zealots went out of their way to demonize drug reform advocates and personally attacked the Marijuana Policy Project's (http://www.mpp.org) executive director, Rob Kampia.
The committee hearing, which had no discernible purpose other than to allow a parade of anti-drug war zealots, drug war bureaucrats and grandstanding congressmen to wail and moan and gnash their teeth over the prospect of medical marijuana, rapidly degenerated into an opportunity for drug war stalwarts to take pot-shots at the reform movement.
The weight of Kampia, the only anti-prohibitionist witness, was counterbalanced by Joyce Nalepka of the anti-drug group America Cares, Inc., Betty Sembler of the Drug Free America Foundation, former California Attorney General Dan Lundgren, defeated congressional drug warrior and drug czar candidate Bill McCollum, Laura Nagel of the DEA, and Dr. Janet Joy, author of the Institute of Medicine's 1999 landmark report on medical marijuana.
Kampia told DRCNet that the reform community was represented only because MPP contacted committee staffers. "We made inquiries once we heard about this hearing," he said. "The only reason we were able to testify is because we made the effort."
"What's really going on here is people are trying to legalize smoking marijuana and they're using cancer and AIDS patients as a prop," pronounced Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL) as the hearing opened.
"This is really an effort by the druggies to legalize marijuana," chimed in Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), who then turned on Kampia. "I don't respect Mr. Kampia. You're not a wonderful person. You're doing something despicable and you're putting a nice face on it."
Subcommittee chairman Mark Souder (R-IN), infamous for authoring the Higher Education Act's smoke a joint-lose your loan provision, intoned solomonically for civility in the hearing, then told Kampia, "You are an articulate advocate for an evil position."
The committee might have seen Kampia's pitchfork tail might twitching when he told the members, "The Marijuana Policy Project believes that sick people as well as healthy people should not be put in jail for using marijuana."
Or perhaps they smelled the sulphurous fumes beginning to swirl around him as he added, "But if we can keep sick people out of jail in the short run, then by God [or was it Beezlebub?] we're going to do it."
As for Barr's lack of respect for him, Kampia retorted, "I'll be cordial with Congressman Barr, but I don't respect him because he's supportive of a policy that criminalizes seriously ill people who have their doctor's approval to use what is a legitimate medicine."
Kampia told DRCNet he was not surprised by the committee's behavior. "They behaved approximately like I thought they would given our previous experience with Barr and Souder and the overall mean sentiment of House Republicans on drug policy issues," he said.
Still, Kampia added, such unpleasant confrontations are necessary. "I wasn't going in there thinking I was going to convince anyone to think differently," he said, "but I wanted to let them know they can't wage a vicious war on patients using marijuana without expecting to be criticized for it. Also, I knew there would be some media coverage, and that coverage could set the tone for the coverage around the Supreme Court case," added Kampia. "I wanted that coverage to be clear on what the Supreme Court can and cannot do with regard to state medical marijuana laws."
Kampia has presumably returned to Hell pending further committee appearances.