#373 Please Contact Your Congressperson

Date: Tue, 8 Jul 2008
Subject: #373 Please Contact Your Congressperson


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DrugSense FOCUS Alert #373 – Tuesday, 8 July 2008

The OPED below — or as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer calls it, a
‘guest column’ — illustrates something any successful letter writer
can do — write an OPED for your local newspaper. OPEDs are simply
longer than letters. This one is 582 words. OPEDs are usually in the
600 to 800 word range. It is best to contact your target newspaper if
you wish to write an OPED for their instructions on size and to see if
they would be interested in the OPED you wish to submit.

If you wish to write a letter to the editor in response to this OPED
please note that the newspaper very rarely prints letters from out of
state people. The average letter printed is about 200 words in length.

Please let your Congressperson know your opinion about the
Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment. You may use this House of
Representatives webform https://forms.house.gov/wyr/welcome.shtml Or
you may use the webform which may be accessed from the Marijuana
Policy Project’s home page at http://www.mpp.org/


Contact: editpage@seattlepi.com

Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer (WA)
Copyright: 2008 Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Authors: Allison Bigelow and Gregory Carter


The federal government is waging war on some of our most vulnerable
citizens, who Washington voters have acted to protect. Soon, our
congressional representatives will have the chance to stand up for
those people — seriously ill patients who need medical marijuana.

This is an issue we both know personally. One of us is a physician and
researcher specializing in rehabilitation medicine and neuromuscular
diseases such as ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s disease”). The other is a cancer
survivor who got through the nausea and vomiting caused by
chemotherapy with the help of marijuana, and who has again found
relief with marijuana from the chronic pain caused by injuries in a
car accident.

We have seen that medical marijuana safely helps some patients who get
no relief from conventional medications. Washington voters did the
right thing when we passed our medical marijuana law a decade ago. A
dozen states now have similar laws, and none have been repealed.

Meanwhile, medical community support continues to solidify. New
studies have documented marijuana’s ability to relieve nerve pain
caused by HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other conditions. In
February, the American College of Physicians — representing 124,000
oncologists, neurologists and other doctors of internal medicine —
released a position paper declaring that the scientific evidence
“supports the use of medical marijuana in certain conditions.”

The ACP specifically called on the federal government to reclassify
marijuana to permit medical use, but our government simply refuses.
Federal officials have arrested patients and caregivers who were
following state medical marijuana laws, and could make more such
arrests any time.

That’s why Congress must act.

In its 2005 case, Gonzales v. Raich, the U.S. Supreme Court punted the
issue to Congress. The court declined to change the status quo, under
which patients protected by state law can still face federal
prosecution. But Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority,
went out of his way to note that patients Angel Raich and Diane Monson
had made “strong arguments that they will suffer irreparable harm,
because, despite a congressional finding to the contrary, marijuana
does have valid therapeutic purposes.” He pointedly expressing hope
that Raich, Monson and their supporters “may one day be heard in the
halls of Congress.”

That chance will come this month.

When the appropriations bill that funds the Justice Department reaches
the House floor, an amendment will be offered that seeks to bar the
department from using any of its money to attack medical marijuana
patients in states where medical use is legal. Called the
Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment after sponsors Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y.,
and Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., the amendment has been proposed in
each of the past several sessions and has steadily gained support.

Washington’s representatives have been oddly inconsistent. Reps. Jay
Inslee and Jim McDermott have been supporters every year, while Dave
Reichert has voted no since he joined Congress in 2005. Reps. Rick
Larsen, Norm Dicks and Adam Smith have all voted yes at least twice,
but Larsen switched to no in 2005 and Smith voted no last year.

Perhaps they remember how well “I voted for it before I voted against
it” worked for Sen. John Kerry in 2004.

But the tide is turning. The medical community is increasingly united,
and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama says
it’s time to end the federal war on state medical marijuana laws.

That’s encouraging, but we don’t need to wait for a new president.
Washington’s congressional representatives should stand up for
Washington patients and support the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment.


Allison Bigelow lives in Clear Lake. Gregory Carter, M.D., M.S., is
specialist in electrodiagnostic and neuromuscular medicine and a
professor on the clinical faculty of the University of Washington
School of Medicine.


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