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No Funds For Buses That Run Pot Ads

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House bill acts against transit agencies that allow medical-marijuana or
drug-reform posters

Local transit agencies allowing medical-marijuana and other kinds of
drug-reform advertisements would be denied federal funding under a bill
passed Monday by the House of Representatives.

Deep within the $373 billion omnibus spending bill is a paragraph that says
no money from the bill can go to any bus, train or subway agency "involved
directly or indirectly in any activity that promotes the legal-ization or
medical use of any substance listed in schedule I of section 202 of the
Controlled Substances Act."

That includes marijuana, which voters in California and nine other states
have decided should be available for medical use.

Drug-reform advocates call the provision censorship, pure and simple. Bill
Piper, associate director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance,
noted that the same bill gives the White House $145 million to run
anti-marijuana ads in 2004.

"The government can't spend taxpayer money promoting one side of the drug
policy debate while prohibiting taxpayers from using their own money to
promote the other side," he said. "This is censorship and not the
democratic way."

Some Bay Area lawmakers agreed.

"We don't believe it is appropriate for the federal government to use the
federal purse string to stifle the free-speech interests of states and
local jurisdictions with regard to this issue," said Daniel Weiss, chief of
staff to Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, who did not vote on the spending bill.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, who voted against the bill, said, "With
federal funding for mass transit already abysmally low, this measure makes
a bad situation even worse."

But Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, who voted for the bill, said he has no
problem with the provision.

"I'm familiar with arguments that some illegal substances provide
therapeutic relief for individuals with certain ailments conventional
treatments haven't cured," he said. "But it doesn't change the fact that
the substances are illegal, and I don't see advertising illegal substances
as a good use of taxpayers' money."

Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., inserted the provision into the catch-all
spending bill after becoming irked at marijuana-de-criminalization ads
placed in the Washington, D.C., Metro transit system by Change the Climate,
a Massachusetts-based nonprofit.

Istook, who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees
transportation spending, also cut $92,500 from the Metro's budget
appropriation -- twice the worth of the advertising space given to Change
the Climate.

Change the Climate placed billboards throughout the Bay Area this year in
response to the January conviction of Ed Rosenthal of Oakland on federal
marijuana cultivation charges. The group has not placed transit ads in the
Bay Area, but the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws,
or NORML, placed ads on San Francisco Muni bus shelters in 1999.

The omnibus spending bill passed 242-176. Opponents from both parties felt
it contained too much pork-barrel spending.

Others voting against the bill included Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Ellen
Tauscher, D-Alamo; Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma;
Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto;
and Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater. Rep. Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, did not cast a

Pubdate: Thu, 11 Dec 2003
Source: Oakland Tribune, The (CA)
Copyright: 2003 MediaNews Group, Inc. and ANG Newspapers
Contact: triblet@angnewspapers.com
Website: East Bay Times - Contra Costa and Alameda county news, sports, entertainment, lifestyle and commentary