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Senate Holds Hearings On Medicinal Marijuana

marijuana leaf

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Dec. 2) -- The Senate held hearings this morning on the medicinal use of marijuana, which would be allowed in California and Arizona under ballot initiatives passed by voters in those states.

The recently passed initiatives conflict with federal law which bans such usage, and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Orin Hatch (R-Utah), charged the measures were attempts to legalize drugs under the guise of helping the sick. "It is important to recognize that the Food and Drug Administration has never endorsed marijuana usage as a legitimate method," Hatch said.

Separately, Clinton Administration drug czar Barry McCaffrey referred to the drive to Decriminalize marijuana for medicinal purposes as "nothing more than a Cheech and Chong show," referring to the 1970s comedy duo that made light of drug use.

Following the hearing, Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz.) and John P. Morgan, a professor of pharmacology at the City University of New York, discussed the issue on CNN.

Kyl maintained that the Arizona initiative had been billed as applying only to marijuana, but actually included LSD, heroin and methamphetamines. The benefits of marijuana to patients, he asserted, could be gotten from other drugs that are legal and that "the bottom line is that for LSD, heroin and drugs of this sort, there is no medicinal purposes and they shouldn't be used."

Noting former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop's opposition to medicinal use of marijuana, Kyl added that the Arizona measure would create new problems for law enforcement officials.

Morgan, in rebuttal, said smoking marijuana was the only way for patients to receive certain chemical compounds, which he said are beneficial for patients with AIDS and several other diseases. "I think the voters of California and Arizona made a very clear cut Decision to no longer hold sick people hostage to the war on drugs," he said.

Morgan acknowledged, however, that California's Proposition 215 could be interpreted to cover almost any condition, and predicted the law would be rewritten to target several specific diseases.

Despite stepped-up rhetoric against drug use during the recent campaign season, voters in both California and Arizona easily passed the ballot initiatives, and join 34 other states that, since 1978, have endorsed medicinal use for certain otherwise illegal substances.

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