June 4, 2004 -- Backers of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes staged protests at more than 100 U.S. congressional offices and campaign headquarters nationwide Friday in an effort to drum up support for a bill that weakens federal drug agents' authority in some states.

The protests targeted lawmakers who last year voted against an amendment that would bar the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from arresting persons who dispense or possess marijuana in accordance with state law.

Nine states allow individuals to grow or possess marijuana as long as a doctor attests that it is used to treat a defined medical condition.

"We're targeting any lawmakers we have reason to believe would stand up for states' rights or medical marijuana," says Tyler H. Smith, operations manager for the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation.

Smith and about 10 others staged a protest outside the Greenbelt, Md., district office of Rep. Stenholm Hoyer. The Democrat voted against the amendment as part of the Department of Justice appropriations bill last summer.

Katie Elbert, a spokeswoman for Hoyer, says the congressman will "certainly review" the materials left in his office by the protesters. "His intention will be to oppose the amendment again should it be introduced."

As many as 135 other protests took place nationwide, according to Aaron Houston, national field director for the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-medical marijuana group.

Despite the call for support of the bill, neither of its original sponsors has confirmed that they will pursue it when the Fiscal 2005 Justice appropriations bill comes up at the end of this month or in July.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who sponsored the amendment last year with Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), has not yet decided to push it again, according to spokesman Aaron Lewis. "Maybe if there's an opportunity on the House floor, but he just doesn't know yet," he says.

"The congressman introduced this bill as a matter of states' rights more than anything else," he says.

Source: WebMD
Author: Todd Zwillich
Published: Friday, June 04, 2004
Copyright: 2004 WebMD Inc.