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Archive for Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Amendment aims to prevent medical-marijuana prosecutions

June 15, 2005

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— Seated and steadied by her husband's hand, Angel Raich's eyes welled up with tears at the mention of her son.

"He's 19 and tomorrow night he'll be going into the U.S. Army," she said.

Raich is thankful she has lived to see him grow up. She wasn't always sure she would.

Since she won her case against former U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft in 2002, Raich has become a public face for the legalization of medical marijuana.

The ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals prohibited the Bush administration from prosecuting Raich and her suppliers, who grow about 8 pounds of cannabis each year for her at no charge. They all live in California, which legalized medical marijuana in 1996 through a statewide referendum.

On Tuesday, Raich was in Washington to support an amendment to an appropriations bill that would prohibit the Justice Department from spending taxpayer money on medical-marijuana prosecutions in states that allow its use.

"It is an absolute waste of public funds," Raich said. "They will be prosecuting us like criminals even though we're sick."

Reps. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., and Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., proposed the one-sentence amendment Tuesday in response to last week's Supreme Court ruling that deemed it constitutional for Congress to prohibit the cultivation and use of medical marijuana in California and the 10 other states allowing such activity.

"It is a travesty for the federal government to step in and override a state law that would permit this activity," Rohrabacher said. "The people of the states have a right to make this decision."

Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington have legalized medical marijuana. All except Hawaii and Vermont held statewide votes on the measure.

Raich, who said she has been ill since adolescence, suffered an allergic reaction in 1995 to birth control. Since then, she's been diagnosed with a multitude of medical conditions, including an inoperable brain tumor.

Restricted to a wheelchair in 1996, Raich was not able to keep down any synthetic drugs. Her doctor then recommended medical marijuana, which Raich said has restored her appetite and helped her manage chronic pain.

"It has restored my mobility," she said. "When I get out of the bed in the morning, I can't move without cannabis."

Critics say the younger generation might have a hard time distinguishing between the medical use and the illegal use of marijuana.

"You just need to be open with kids about everything in life," said Raich, who also has a 16-year-old daughter.

The measure's sponsors also acknowledged the fight against the culture created by the recreational use of marijuana.

"The decision-making surrounding this drug has been clouded by other consideration," Rohrabacher said. "It's time to leave the '60s behind."

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