The Oakland Tribune has reported that House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) will not support legislation introduced last week that would protect medical marijuana users and suppliers. The legislation, inspired by the case of Oakland medical marijuana supplier Ed Rosenthal and others arrested under federal law in California, would allow people from states that have legalized medical marijuana to introduce evidence in federal court that they had complied with those state laws.
Current practice in the federal courts makes no provision for telling jurors that defendants charged by the Justice Department were operating within state laws. This state of affairs has led to fiascos like the Ed Rosenthal verdict, in which jurors convicted Rosenthal of federal marijuana cultivation offenses, but then responded with shock, outrage and demands for a new trial for Rosenthal once they emerged from the courthouse and became aware that Rosenthal was operating within California law and with the express approval of Oakland municipal authorities.
Introduced by California US Reps. Sam Farr (D-Monterey) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) along with 23 cosponsors, the "Truth in Trials" bill seeks to act as a brake on the aggressive enforcement efforts of the John Ashcroft Justice Department, which in the last year and a half conducted raids on California medical marijuana providers and prosecuted them in the federal courts. "This is about due process," Farr said at an introductory press conference last week in Washington. "It's not about pot."
Hastert has a different take, according to spokesman John Feehery. "I doubt very seriously that the speaker would support that kind of provision," he told the Tribune. "Anti-drug laws should be strengthened, not weakened." And when asked by the Tribune if allowing California and other states to experiment with medical marijuana laws was a states' right issue, Feehery replied, "not necessarily." In this case, he said, the state laws are wrong.