Follow-Up: Medical Marijuana Gains Support in Congress -- Slightly -- Some Surprises 6/30/06

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Due to staff travel schedule, Drug War Chronicle's full report on the Hinchey-Rohrabacher medical marijuana amendment vote is waiting until next week. However, we here report to you on the results and some highlights.

Supreme Court plaintiff Angel Raich leads demonstrators to the
office of medical marijuana opponent and
arch-drug warrior Mark Souder, 5/4/05
First, the amendment lost on a 163-259 vote -- a net increase of two "aye" votes from last year -- only a slight gain, but in a high-stakes election year probably not bad. Of the 163 who voted for medical marijuana, 18 were Republicans. Click here to see the official roll call and find out how your Rep. voted -- if you don't know who your Rep. is, you can use our online lookup tool to find out.

The biggest surprise is that one of the "ayes" was Dan Burton, a conservative Republican from Indiana who has generally been a pretty hard-line drug warrior, if not a virulent one -- more independent than some members of Congress, perhaps, but very hard-line on the issue. Burton did stun observers of a Government Reform and Oversight Committee in December 2002 -- his last before stepping down as chairman -- by implicitly raising the legalization question, talking about taking the profit out of drugs, even referring to Al Capone and alcohol prohibition. But he has nevertheless been a hard-liner on the issue in his actual legislating before and since. Burton's son was busted with large quantities of marijuana two times in 1994, receiving a light sentence the first time and none the second -- we can only speculate what effect if any this family experience has had on his views.

Also surprising was that Rep. Mark Souder, also an Indiana Republican, did not stand up to speak against the amendment. Souder, as Drug War Chronicle readers know, is one of the most ardent and vociferous drug warriors in Congress.

One of the highlights from the debate were remarks by Rep. David Obey (D-WI): "If I am terminally ill, it is not anybody's business on this floor how I handle the pain or the illness or the sickness associated with that illness. With all due respect to all of you, butt out. I did not enter this world with the permission of the Justice Department, and I am certainly not going to depart it by seeking their permission or that of any other authority. The Congress has no business telling people that they cannot manage their illness or their pain any way they need to. I would trust any doctor in the country before I trust some of the daffy ducks in this institution to decide what I am supposed to do if I am terminally ill... When is this Congress going to recognize that individuals in their private lives have a right to manage their problems as they see fit without the permission of the big guy in the White House or the big guy in the Justice Department or any of the Lilliputians on this Congressional floor? Wake up!"

Special thanks to the 2,500+ DRCNet members who used our web site to write to Congress during the lead-up to the vote, and commendations to the organizations who made heroic lobbying efforts -- check back with us next week for more of the story.

-- END --
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Issue #442 -- 6/30/06

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Feature: Reefer Madness from the United Nations on International Anti-Drug Day | Feature: Summer Music Festival Season is Here, and So Are Police Checkpoints -- Know Your Rights! | Follow-Up: Medical Marijuana Gains Support in Congress -- Slightly -- Some Surprises | DRCNet Book Review: Race to Incarcerate, Revised Edition," by Marc Mauer (2006, The New Press, $15.95 PB) | "Scoops" in Drug War Chronicle Last Week | Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Law Enforcement: Revelation of Major Sleaze Among "Operation Lively Green" Informants, Cover-Up by FBI Agent | Newsbrief: California Legislature Votes to Gut Prop. 36 -- Court Challenge Imminent | Harm Reduction: Responding to Wave of Fentanyl Overdose Deaths, Senator Durbin Proposes OD Prevention Bill | Hemp: California Industrial Hemp Bill Wins Another Committee Vote | Europe: Italian Ministers Announce Drug Law Revisions | Southwest Asia: Iranian Official Says Country Could Ignore Drug Traffickers if UN Doesn't Up Anti-Drug Aid | Web Scan: Government Waste, Len Bias Legacy, World Drug Report, Zogby Poll, John Stossel, Steph Sherer, Nathan Riley | Weekly: This Week in History | Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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