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WASHINGTON - By their own admission, the medicinal marijuana advocates who
gathered Wednesday in a basement room of the Capitol made up a bizarre
partnership. And they agreed that their cause - getting the federal
government to stop meddling in states' laws on the use of marijuana for
medical purposes - was pretty hopeless for now.

But a former aide to President Reagan and several members of Congress -
including an openly gay, die-hard liberal; a one-time Libertarian
presidential candidate and a Southern California Republican - said the time
had come to push the matter with a reluctant legislature.

"Nine states have decided to allow physicians to prescribe medical
marijuana," said Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., one of the bipartisan authors
of the bill, which was introduced a year ago but has yet to make it out of
the House Energy and Commerce Committee to the floor for debate. "What our
bill does is to say (that) in those states, there will be no federal
prohibition on such use."

Eight Western states - Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii,
Nevada, Oregon and Washington - and Maine have laws permitting doctors to
prescribe marijuana to patients suffering from illnesses such as glaucoma,
multiple sclerosis, AIDS and cancer. Proponents of medical marijuana use
contend that for these patients, it relieves a variety of symptoms -
including pain, nausea and loss of appetite - with minimal side effects.

But the state laws permitting medical marijuana use clash with federal
regulation of illegal narcotics. That has resulted in federal prosecutions
of individuals who, under state law, have committed no crime.

In its first review of a medical marijuana initiative passed by state
voters in 1996, the California Supreme Court last week ruled unanimously
that residents who grow marijuana for personal medical use are protected
from state prosecution if they have their doctor's approval. However, the
U.S. Supreme Court, considering the California initiative last year, ruled
that marijuana offered no "medical benefits worthy of exception" to federal
anti-drug laws.

Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas - the former Libertarian presidential candidate -
called the denial of access to marijuana to suffering patients simply

"Where are the compassionate conservatives today. They're not here, and
they should be," Paul said, arguing that decriminalizing marijuana, which
he dubbed a "so-called illegal drug," would be restoring rights lost to
federal oversight in the early 1900s.

"Let's get over some of the stereotypes and hangovers from the '60s," said
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif.

Backers of the bill emphasized that its scope was very narrow - to stop
interference by federal law enforcement agencies in the distribution of
medical marijuana where it is allowed by states. The legislation, they
said, was not meant to open the door to broader legalization of pot,
although some boosters of the bill, such as the National Organization for
the Reform of Marijuana Laws, have pushed for such change.

Lyn Nofziger, an aide to Reagan in Sacramento and Washington, spoke of his
daughter's painful death from cancer a decade ago. Her suffering, he said,
was relieved only by her family's illicit acquisition of marijuana for her use.

Nofziger, 78, said he felt so strongly about the issue that "I came to
Capitol Hill, which I don't usually do because its a terrible place and I'm
mingling with liberals."

Marijuana "did not save her life, nor did we think it would," Nofziger
said. "But it made a portion of the last weeks of her life more bearable to
her and her family.

"An administration who claimed to be compassionate and conservative should
support this legislation. People are being denied help by others who simply
don't give a damn."

Pubdate: Thu, 25 Jul 2002
Source: Register-Guard, The (OR)
Copyright: 2002 The Register-Guard
Contact: rgletters@guardnet.com
Website: Breaking local news, news updates, sports, business and weather | Eugene, Oregon
Details: Overload Warning
Bookmark: Overload Warning (Cannabis - Medicinal)
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