WASHINGTON -- Rep. Asa Hutchinson, President Bush's pick to lead the
Drug Enforcement Administration, declined Tuesday to commit the
agency to vigorously enforcing the federal ban on medical marijuana.

The question came up during the Arkansas Republican's confirmation
hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Supreme Court ruled in
May that a federal law classifying the drug as illegal includes no
exception for medical uses.

"Do you think the federal government should make it a priority to
prosecute people who are distributing marijuana to ill people?" asked
committee chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

The 50-year-old Hutchinson said he personally opposes the use of
marijuana for medical purposes -- "It is still illegal, it is
harmful, and there's many potential dangers. The scientific community
does not support the medical use of it," he said -- but would not say
going after medical marijuana dealers would be a priority for the DEA.

"As far as enforcement policy, that's something I'm going to work
with the attorney general on and develop an appropriate policy,"
Hutchinson said.

"In other words, you can't take a position today," Leahy said.

Like Hutchinson, the Bush administration has been silent about its
next move on medical marijuana and has taken no public action to
enforce the Supreme Court ruling.

Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon and
Washington allow the infirm to have marijuana for medical purposes.
without fear of state prosecution.

Newshawk: Sledhead - http://drugtesting.freeservers.com/
Source: Salt Lake Tribune (UT)
Pubdate: Wed, 18 Jul 2001
Copyright: 2001 The Salt Lake Tribune
Contact: letters@sltrib.com
Website: http://www.sltrib.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/383
Author: Jesse J. Holland, The Associated Press