In two states where efforts to legalize the use of marijuana for medical reasons have yet to bear fruit, legislators held hearings on the topic recently. In Madison, Wisconsin, Tuesday, Rep. Greg Underheim (R) held hearings on a bill he is sponsoring. And five days earlier, Arkansas Rep. Lindsley Smith (D) held a presentation on medical marijuana for legislators in Little Rock. Smith told the Arkansas News Bureau she is considering filing a bill for the 2007 session.
Smith has suggested a medical marijuana bill that would include a registration program allowing terminally ill people to use, grow, and distribute marijuana for medical use, but some witnesses were leery of registering patients. California physician Dr. Phillip Denney, who has recommended marijuana for patients there, told the panel a registration program could lead to harassment and possible arrest of patients and providers.
Little Rock brain cancer patient Debbie Carter testified that she used marijuana while receiving chemotherapy. "It makes me feel good and it makes me eat a little bit. How can that be wrong?" she asked.
Several lawmakers expressed concern that marijuana is illegal under federal law, but Arkansas Bureau of Legislative Research attorney Mike Feehan explained that the Supreme Court did not invalidate California's medical marijuana law; it only found that federal law superseded state law. The court did not throw out California's medical marijuana law, Feehan explained. While patients in states with medical marijuana laws could be arrested by federal agents, that was unlikely given that state and local police are responsible for 95% of all arrests.
In Wisconsin, the Tuesday hearing was related to a bill already filed, Rep. Underheim's AB740, which would bar the arrest and prosecution of qualified medical marijuana patients and would provide for a medical necessity defense in the case of arrest. The bill also provides for the creation of a registry of patients whose doctors have recommended marijuana for the treatment of debilitating medical conditions.
Among the witnesses the Wisconsin legislators were scheduled to hear was Irv Rosenfeld, the Florida stock broker who has smoked medical marijuana for the past 23 years under a federal government compassionate use program.