(courtesy NORML, http://www.norml.org)
Washington, DC: Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) reintroduced legislation on Tuesday this week (4/3) in the 107th Congress to provide for the medical use of marijuana. The bill is titled the "States' Rights to Medical Marijuana Act."
"People who are suffering from severe or terminal illnesses who find a measure of relief from marijuana ought to be able to use it without being treated like criminals," Frank announced. "This bill offers an opportunity for my conservative colleagues to decide if they really want to be consistent on the question of states' rights or if they think the federal government should tell states what to do."
The 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. This reclassification properly recognizes marijuana's medical utility and enables physicians to legally prescribe it under controlled circumstances while maintaining restrictions on recreational use.
Since 1996, nine states -- Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington -- have implemented laws allowing seriously ill patients to possess and use medical marijuana under a doctor's supervision. While these laws protect patients from state criminal marijuana penalties, they do not shield patients from federal prosecution, nor do they allow a state legislature to legally distribute medical marijuana. The legislation introduced in Congress today would afford patients legal protection under federal law, and permit those states that wish to establish medical marijuana distribution systems the legal authority to do so.
NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup called the proposal a streamlined effort to get marijuana to those who require it. "Historically, voters and state legislatures have been more receptive to the medical marijuana issue than the federal government," Stroup explained. "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."
Stroup said that the Supreme Court's apparent skepticism regarding whether patients or medical marijuana providers may legally raise the defense of "medical necessity" in federal marijuana cases makes the need to reform federal law more pertinent than ever. "Judging from the questions raised by several of the justices, it appears likely the Supreme Court may reject the medical necessity defense in federal cases," he said. "Therefore, passage of this legislation by Congress is crucial. It will enact federal protections to safeguard patients who are using marijuana medicinally under their doctor's supervision, and will provide an opportunity for states to establish their own legal, regulated medical marijuana distribution systems to supply medicine to those who need it."
Joining Frank in support of this act are Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), John Conyers (D-MI), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), John Olver (D-MA), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Pete Stark (D-CA), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).
(Tell Congress to support medical marijuana! Visit http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/medicalmarijuana/ to send an e-mail or fax to your Representative and your two Senators. Don't forget to call them too -- use the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to get through, or visit http://www.house.gov and http://www.senate.gov to find their direct lines or locations.)