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New measure could give medical patients some relief from US drug war

By Hempology | July 28, 2007

Columbia Daily Tribune, MO
25 Jul 2007
Jason Rosenbaum


Hulshof Spokesman Criticizes Measure

A Columbia attorney is calling on U.S.  Rep.  Kenny Hulshof, R-Columbia, to support a congressional measure halting federal prosecution of people who use medical marijuana when the use complies with state law.

Twelve states allow the use of marijuana with a doctor’s prescription.  Attorney Dan Viets, local chapter president of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said Congress would vote either today or later this week on a provision in a budget bill known as the Hinchey Amendment.

That measure would effectively say that the Department of Justice could not spend any federal funds on enforcement of laws against marijuana use and possession by medical patients who possess or use marijuana when that use is in compliance with state law. 

“It really is the essence of what many conservatives claim to support – - and that’s states’ rights, or in this case, also that the principle would be centralized decision-making,” Viets said today in an interview.

“Why do we need the federal government to come in here and tell us how to run our business? So it strikes me as ironic that …  our conservative congressperson in particular would resist supporting this.”

A spokesman for Hulshof indicated the six-term lawmaker would not budge from his opposition to the medical marijuana amendment.

Hulshof spokesman Scott Baker said the amendment would prohibit law enforcement from enforcing existing federal laws, which he said “makes no sense and is a dangerous precedent.”

“Federal prosecutors could prosecute someone in Missouri, but those in Colorado or Hawaii, or any other state that has passed” medical “marijuana laws, would be shielded from federal law by their state law,” Baker said.

Viets agreed that the amendment would prevent federal officials from enforcing state law in narrow circumstances.

“It does make sense if you believe that people who suffer from cancer, from multiple sclerosis, from AIDS and HIV, if you believe that those people deserve an opportunity to relieve their suffering,” Viets said.  “There are other things at stake here other than some vague and amorphous idea that all federal laws must be enforced.”

Baker said several medical organizations – including the American Medical Association and the American Cancer Society – oppose using marijuana as medicine.  He called the amendment part of an incremental strategy to legalize pot.

“Everyone appreciates that Mr.  Viets has a singular purpose in life.  He wants to see pot legally sold on every street corner,” Baker said.  “Unfortunately he doesn’t understand where the vast majority of people in the Ninth District are on this issue.  He isn’t even close to being in the vicinity of the ballpark.”

Viets and others at a news conference today in the Boone County Government Center said the amendment was separate from legalizing marijuana.

“People need to see this with different eyes,” David Sapp of Columbia told reporters.  Sapp said he used marijuana in California under a prescription to fight the effects of MS.

“It’s really not about drug use,” Sapp said.  “It’s really not even about marijuana.  What it’s about is providing compassionate medical care for people who are suffering.”

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