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WASHINGTON (AP) - Republicans and Democrats agreed Thursday that the Bush
administration shouldn't buy advertising to oppose state and local
campaigns aimed at easing marijuana penalties.

The agreement became part of legislation that would keep the White House
anti-drug office in business for another five years. The House Government
Reform Committee approved the bill by a voice vote.

The committee also dropped a Republican proposal that would move some drug
enforcement money from state and local police agencies and give it to
federal departments in states that legalized marijuana for medical use.
GOP sponsors said they never considered the proposal a major part of the
anti-drug campaign.

The restrictive advertising language would prohibit ads that advocate
support or defeat of any clearly identified candidate, ballot initiative,
legislative or regulatory proposal. It was aimed at ensuring that the
White House could not use the extensive anti-drug advertising campaign to
oppose state and local medical marijuana initiatives.

Federal law does not permit legalization of marijuana, and the director of
the Office of National Drug Control Policy, John Walters, has traveled the
country to speak out against easing marijuana laws.

Maryland recently became the latest state to have a medical marijuana law,
joining Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Nevada
and Maine.

Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy
Project, said the legislation should have included greater restrictions on
the director's activities.

"Unfortunately, the committee did not extend the common sense restriction
on using taxpayer funds for political purposes to the activities of the
drug czar," said Fox, whose group wants to remove criminal penalties for
marijuana use.

Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., chairman of the Government Reform panel's
criminal justice subcommittee, said the groups advocating a change in the
law were extremists who wrongly accused the committee of supporting
political ads.

"That was never my intention or the intention of the bill," Souder said.

Author: Larry Margasak
Source: Associated Press
Pubdate: Thursday, June 5, 2003
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