An amendment to the Justice Department budget bill is being considered this week which would protect the users of medical marijuana in states which have legalized it from federal prosecution. This is a tiny step forward to help protect those suffering from chronic pain, AIDS, cancer and other conditions which marijuana can treat more safely and effectively than other drugs. They have enough problems without further fear of the DEA arresting them.
This amendment should meet the criteria of Monday’s Supreme Court decision by imposing protection through federal as well as state law. Despite its obvious desirablilty, the amendment may face fierce opposition because some will see it as a foot in the door for further legalization action, despite the fact that it’s really a very limited protection for medical users. The amendment has bi-partisan sponsorship with two Repulicans and two Democrats sponsoring it in the House, but it needs public support as well, to make legislators aware of how badly this law is needed and how important supporting legislation like this is to their constituents. If they don’t hear from you they tend to just listen to what their party bosses tell them and now is the time to shake them out of that complacency.
The amendment is called the ‘States Rights to Medical Marijuana Act’ or the ‘Hinchey-Rohrbacher Amendment’. NORML has provided an excellent form for contacting your representatives, including everyone from the President on down. This form does not include a pre-generated letter, so you’ll have to compose your own. Be sure to include any personal experiences which you can, as well as the name of the bill and your feelings about it and the War on Drugs in general. It also can’t hurt to tell your representative how much you support and admire him for doing such a great job representing you by voting the right way on issues like this – even if it’s generally not true.
This issue is going to be voted on in the next week or so, which makes it very urgent. Because of that you might want to also call your representative. If you don’t know his or her name you can get it from the NORML letter form. Then call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Ask to speak to your Representative or his office by name. Once you get to their office, say something like: “Hi, I’m a constituent from (name your town). I’m calling to urge Congressman (representative’s name) to vote in support of the Hinchey-Rohrabacher medical marijuana amendment to the Justice Department spending bill, which is coming up for a vote this week. I would also like him (or her) to send me a letter letting me know how he (or she) voted. This issue is very important to me and I hope he/she will take it seriously so I can continue to give him/her my support.” BTW, Hinchey-Rohrabacher is pronounced Hinchee Roy Bocker. You might want to modify this speech and personalize it a little bit so the staffer takes you a bit more seriously. When I called I started out by asking how my representative was planning to vote on the amendment. That seemed to get the staffer’s attention. You can also try to get through to actually talk to the representative directly. It’s not likely, but also not impossible, especially if you’re active in your local party or have some personal connection or clout. If you try that, be prepared with every bit of information and personal experience you can offer to help convince him.
Note that this amendment is not really a radical step towards drug legalization. It’s very moderate. It would not prevent the DEA from arresting people using, growing, or selling marijuana for recreational use or even from arresting patients for medical marijuana in states that have not approved it. It just stops the federal government from arresting patients who use marijuana in those states which have legalized marijuana for medical use.