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June 28, 2006 - US Congressional Record, 2005-2006, Pages: H4735 through H4737

Text Of House Debate On Hinchey-Rohrabacher

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The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman will state his parliamentary inquiry.

[Page: H4735] GPO's PDF Mr. HINCHEY. Mr. Chairman, I have two amendments at the desk having to do with the medicinal use of marijuana. I understand that the first one has been allocated 10 minutes and the second one has been allocated 20 minutes, is that correct?

The Acting CHAIRMAN. That is correct.


Mr. HINCHEY. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will designate the amendment.

The text of the amendment is as follows:

Amendment offered by Mr. Hinchey:

At the end of the bill (before the short title), add the following:


SEC. 801. None of the funds made available in this Act may used by the Department of Justice to prevent the States of Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Rhode Island, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, or Washington from implementing State laws authorizing the use of medical marijuana, and the Attorney General shall transfer from available appropriations for the current fiscal year for the Department of Justice any amounts that would have been used for such purpose but for this section to ``Drug Enforcement Administration, Salaries and Expenses'', for the Drug Enforcement Administration to assist State and local law enforcement with proper removal and disposal of hazardous materials from illegal methamphetamine labs, including funding for training, technical assistance, a container program, and purchase of equipment to adequately remove and store hazardous material.

Mr. WOLF. Mr. Chairman, I reserve a point of order on the gentleman's amendment.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. A point of order is reserved.

Pursuant to the order of the House of Tuesday, June 27, 2006, the gentleman from New York (Mr. Hinchey) and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from New York.

Mr. HINCHEY. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, the purpose of this amendment was to reallocate funding in this bill away from the prosecution of the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in those 11 States where either the legislature or the people of those States by referenda have decided that they would like to have marijuana use for medicinal purposes under the supervision of a licensed physician in those 11 States, to have it moved from there to the enforcement of methamphetamine violations.

My understanding is that the chairman is going to insist on a point of order, saying that this is legislating on an appropriations bill. Am I correct about that?

The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman has reserved a point of order.

Mr. WOLF. I reserved the point of order.

Mr. HINCHEY. Mr. Chairman, I don't know why there would be a point of order against this amendment, because it seems to me that we have the ability to make these kinds of decisions now. This is not legislating on an appropriations bill. It is simply moving one appropriation for one particular purpose to a better purpose.

[Begin Insert]

Mr. SOUDER. Mr. Chairman, regardless of how you have voted in the past, there are two critical developments since the last vote that make compelling arguments for a ``no'' vote on the Hinchey Amendment to the SSJC Appropriations bill. The Hinchey Amendment would deny law enforcement agencies Federal funds to enforce the Controlled Substances Act in those States where `medicinal' marijuana is legal under State law.

First, the FDA in April of this year confirmed that there is no research to sustain the supposed ``medicinal value'' in smoked marijuana. On April 20, 2006, the FDA stated, ``A past evaluation by several Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA), concluded that no sound scientific studies supported medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States, and no animal or human data supported the safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use.'' Furthermore, the ``FDA has not approved smoked marijuana for any condition or disease indication.''

Second, research from a 25-year longitudinal study by the Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Services showed that regular or heavy marijuana use was linked to a wide range of other illicit drugs and to a dependence or abuse of these other illicit drugs.

The research concluded that ``following tight statistical controls, there is a clear tendency for those using cannabis to have higher rates of usage of other illicit drugs. This tendency is most evident for regular users of cannabis, and is even more marked in adolescents than in young adults.'' These researchers, using the most robust longitudinal database in the world, show what we have long suspected--marijuana is a gateway to even more dangerous drugs of abuse.

A handful of states have legalized smoked marijuana for medical claims. Not only are patients being given an ineffective, unapproved, and even harmful drug, but also one that is illegal under Federal law.

Time and time again, research has demonstrated the harmful effects of marijuana. According to Dr. Nora Volkow, the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), marijuana ``can produce adverse physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral changes, and--contrary to popular belief--it can be addictive. Marijuana smoke, like cigarette smoke, can harm the lungs. The use of marijuana can impair short-term memory, verbal skills, and judgment and distort perception. It also may weaken the immune system and possibly increase a user's likelihood of developing cancer. Finally, the increasing use of marijuana by very young teens may have a profoundly negative effect upon their development.''

It is of the utmost importance that law enforcement be able to protect this country from dangerous drug trafficking, including marijuana. Join us in opposing the Hinchey amendment.

[End Insert]

Mr. HINCHEY. Mr. Chairman, in any case, I respect the chairman's decision; and, with that, I ask unanimous consent to withdraw the amendment.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from New York?

There was no objection.


Mr. HINCHEY. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will designate the amendment.

The text of the amendment is as follows:

Amendment offered by Mr. Hinchey:

At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following:


SEC. 801. None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used to prevent the States of Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Rhode Island, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, or Washington from implementing State laws authorizing the use of medical marijuana in those States.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. Pursuant to the order of the House of Tuesday, June 27, 2006, the gentleman from New York (Mr. Hinchey) and a Member opposed each will control 10 minutes.

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from New York.

Mr. HINCHEY. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, this amendment has to do with two things: It has to do with compassion, compassion for people who are very seriously ill and/or dying, and the ability of States in which those people live to provide means by which their suffering can be relieved.

It also has to do with one other point, and that is the issue of States' rights, the ability of the States to determine how medical care will be regulated in those States.

We have 11 States in our country, Mr. Chairman, that have determined that it is in the interests of the people of those States that they be allowed to use marijuana for medicinal purposes to alleviate the suffering from such things as AIDS, cancer, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Rhode Island, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. However, the Federal Government has decided that they are going to intervene and prevent those States from carrying out the laws which were passed in two cases by the State legislatures and in nine cases by referenda by the people of those States.

We will hear from the people who oppose this amendment that marijuana has something to do with a gateway drug. In other words, it introduces people to other drugs. This amendment has nothing whatsoever to do with that. This amendment has nothing to do with drug addiction. This amendment has nothing to do with the potential for drug addiction. This amendment simply has to do with the ability of States to relieve the suffering of their citizens without Federal intervention and the right of States to pass

[Page: H4736] GPO's PDFlaws regulating medical practice without Federal intervention. It is a very simple amendment, and it ought to be passed. Those people here who believe in small government should support it. Those people here who believe in the issue of States' rights ought to support it. And those people here who believe that State governments and the people in those governments have the right to take care of their citizens and alleviate their suffering, those people in this House ought to support this amendment as well.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.


The Acting CHAIRMAN. The Chair would remind our guests in the gallery that demonstrations of either approval or disapproval are not appropriate.

Mr. WOLF. Mr. Chairman, I claim the time in opposition.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Virginia is recognized for 10 minutes in opposition to the amendment.

Mr. WOLF. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Iowa (Mr. Latham).

Mr. LATHAM. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in strong opposition to the Hinchey amendment.

Let's be clear: Marijuana is not harmless, as some claim. It is a schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning it has no accepted medical use in treatment and has a high potential for abuse. In fact, marijuana continues to be the most widely abused drug in the United States.

Those who anecdotally claim that marijuana has a medical benefit do not differentiate between THC and whole marijuana. Whole marijuana contains hundreds of chemicals, many of which are harmful to one's health. An evaluation by several Federal agencies concluded that no sound scientific studies supported marijuana's medical use, and smoking marijuana is not approved as a legitimate medical use by the FDA.

The bottom line is, marijuana is an addictive substance that is linked to cancer and respiratory ailments and problems with the immune and reproductive system.

Let me say as a member of the Speaker's Task Force for a Drug-Free America, marijuana is the drug that will tell whether or not someone is going to get on methamphetamines. It is the precursor, the gateway drug, for heroin use. As we continue to fight this battle against illegal drug use, this is the drug that gets people started.

Anyone who is trying to send a message to our young people today should be embarrassed by having an amendment like this, because this is telling people that this is okay, that it is socially acceptable, that you can start here and it won't hurt you. And, in fact, medically, scientifically, that is dead wrong.

The message we are sending to our children today is very strong. Whether we support legal use of marijuana as a precursor to methamphetamines, to heroin, this is the message we will be sending if we approve this. I strongly urge my colleagues to vote against this amendment.

Mr. HINCHEY. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the cosponsor of this amendment, the gentleman from California (Mr. Rohrabacher).

Mr. ROHRABACHER. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment. Our amendment would prohibit any funds made available in this act to the Department of Justice from being used to prevent the implementation of legally passed State laws in those 11 States authorizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Our coalition of freedom-minded Republicans and Democrats on this issue is based on compassion for those who are suffering, a commitment to personal liberty and a firm belief in the principles of federalism.

[Time: 16:45] The use of marijuana to relieve the pain of victims of a wide variety of medical conditions is well known and increasingly documented in the media and in medical journals. For many of these people, medical science has not been able to relieve their pain.

Just recently a friend of mine and a friend of many years passed away, Lyn Nofziger, and many of you here probably know him. He was Ronald Reagan's first press secretary. I went to see him after he got out of the hospital with his treatments for cancer.

He had his good days and his bad days. I saw him about a week before he died. And I asked Lyn about it, and he said, yes, sometimes it is bad, and other times it is not, but I could not get myself to eat, and I had the pain no matter what they did for me.

And I said, well, did you ever try that medical marijuana that we have been talking about and debating about? And he got a twinkle in his eye, and he said, yes, I did. And it brought my appetite back, and I slept like a baby. Do not tell me that we should have Federal law enforcement people come into a State where the people have voted to approve that if a doctor agrees and get in the way of Lyn Nofziger or anyone else who is suffering and use Federal money and Federal resources that should be going to fight crime in order to create that obstacle.

That is a travesty. Individuals who live in the 11 States affected by the amendment have been granted by the voters of these States the legal right to use marijuana to alleviate their pain if a doctor agrees. If the voters have so voted and a doctor agrees, it is a travesty for the government to intercede, the Federal Government, allocating our scarce resources to fighting this, getting in the way of someone using something to alleviate their suffering.

This is something which should be left to the States as American tradition dictates. Sandra Day O'Connor stated it best, and she stated that States should serve as a laboratory so that people can try certain new ideas out to see how they work.

Well, the Federal Government should not get in the way of what is going on in these 11 States to see how this works. The most recent decision of the Supreme Court has thrown the ball into the hands of the U.S. Congress. Paul Stevens, Justice Paul Stevens, made it clear: the voices of the voters may one day be heard in the Halls of Congress on behalf of legalizing marijuana. Eleven States have already acted.

I would hope you would all join us for the principles of federalism, compassion and individual liberty and not get in the way of the people who are suffering.

Mr. OBEY. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word, and I yield 1 minute to the gentleman.

Mr. ROHRABACHER. Mr. Chairman, we have people out there, not just Lyn Nofziger but others, and my mother suffered. I remember how she lost her appetite after suffering a debilitating disease in which she had to go through treatments.

This is a travesty to use scarce Federal resources. Join this coalition of people who are Republicans and Democrats who believe in federalism, who believe in compassion and believe in personal liberty. Let doctors prescribe these things, not Federal Government bureaucrats.

Mr. OBEY. Mr. Chairman, reclaiming my time.

Mr. Chairman, I congratulate the authors of this amendment. I simply want to say this: If I am terminally ill, it is not anybody's business on this floor how I handle the pain or the illness or the sickness associated with that illness.

With all due respect to all of you, butt out. I did not enter this world with the permission of the Justice Department, and I am certainly not going to depart it by seeking their permission or that of any other authority.

The Congress has no business telling people that they cannot manage their illness or their pain any way they need to. I would trust any doctor in the country before I trust some of the daffy ducks in this institution to decide what I am supposed to do if I am terminally ill.

The idea that somehow this is a gateway that we are creating for a drug like meth is a joke. I detest meth. I have seen what it does. It is a plague on my district. It is especially horrendous in the midwest, and it is getting worse every day. That has nothing whatsoever to do with the management of pain and misery for people who are sick and who are dying.

When is this Congress going to recognize that individuals in their private lives have a right to manage their problems as they see fit without the permission of the big guy in the White

[Page: H4737] GPO's PDFHouse or the big guy in the Justice Department or any of the Lilliputians on this Congressional floor? Wake up. Mr. WOLF. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Iowa (Mr. King).

Mr. KING of Iowa. Mr. Chairman, I thank the chairman for yielding me time and for the privilege to address this issue.

Mr. Chairman, we have heard from the other Member from Iowa (Mr. Latham) that the Food and Drug Administration has classified marijuana, along with heroin, LSD, methamphetamine, hashish and a number of other drugs, as Schedule I drugs. That is because they carry a high potential for dangerous abuse.

And so doctors in most States even prohibit them for being prescribed for medicinal purposes. That is a standard. That is the national standard. The issue was raised about States' rights. But no one has raised the issue about States' rights about the other drugs that are Schedule I drugs.

But we do have a right, a constitutional right and an obligation to regulate drugs in America. The question really is, is marijuana among them? And it is. And so we would be seeking to, by this amendment, usurp that decision and change that standard.

But with regard to the addictive nature of marijuana, I am looking at a study here that says that if adults started at a fairly young age, say by the time of 26 or older, they used marijuana before the age of 15, 62 percent reported a lifetime cocaine use, 9 permanent reported lifetime heroin use, and 54 percent reported nonmedical use of psychotherapeutics. And this does not include methamphetamines, which is abused more than any of these drugs that I mentioned here.

So this is a high use issue. It is also something that infringes upon or inhibits our ability and our reflexes with regard to driving. So, for example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that marijuana use has been shown to impair driving performance. These things we know.

Then with regard to the gentleman from California's statements about he could not, that Mr. Nofziger could not get himself to eat, if that is our issue, then let us focus on the synthetic THC that is now available. It is available in a drug by the name of Marinol, and it has been proven to be effective, especially dealing with cancer patients and with the nausea associated with the chemotherapy treatments and also with the appetite, that might help assisting the appetite with AIDS patients.

There is a way that we can use the THC, and there is a way also that we can protect this country against that kind of Schedule I drug.

Mr. Chairman, I urge a ``no'' vote on the amendment.

Mr. HINCHEY. Mr. Chairman, how much time do we have?

The Acting CHAIRMAN. Four and a half minutes.

Mr. HINCHEY. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 1/2 minutes to the gentleman from California (Mr. Farr).

Mr. FARR. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the Hinchey-Rohrabacher-Paul-Farr amendment.

Mr. Chairman, every year we bring this amendment to the floor. So far it has never passed. Some may ask, well, why are we doing this again? Well, the answer is because of the statements that have been made already by Mr. Hinchey and Mr. Obey about compassion for people who are suffering.

We offer this amendment for terminal cancer patients, for AIDS victims, for persons who suffer chronic pain. We offer this amendment not only to protect those people; we offer this amendment to protect these States that are progressive enough to provide alternative medical options to those who need it.

So often this body insists on protecting the rights of States to define marriage. So often this body insists on protecting the rights of States to set abortion policies. So often this body insists on protecting the rights of States to determine education curricula and standards.

But when it comes to protecting the rights of States to set medical scope of practice, this body balks. All of a sudden States no longer have the right to determine what is best for their citizens when it includes medical marijuana.

The Hinchey amendment does not change Federal law. It does not change drug policy. It does protect States' rights. For those of you who come from States that do not have medical marijuana laws, nothing in this amendment will affect your State. Everything in your State remains status quo.

For those of you who come from States that do have medical marijuana laws, very little in this amendment will impact your State. The only difference now is that your State will be able to implement its laws without little old ladies being busted by Federal cops. I support this amendment.

Mr. WOLF. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Peterson), a member of the committee.

Mr. PETERSON of Pennsylvania. Mr. Chairman, I rise to oppose this amendment. For 20 years, in State government, I worked on health issues. I chaired the health committee for a decade. I asked leaders and major medical groups; I asked leaders in the medical societies; and since I have been here I have asked leaders at NIH, do we need to legalize marijuana? And I have never had a positive answer.

They said, we have more drugs than we need. We have more things that are out there for people that will perform better than marijuana. But what I tell you what I do not want to do, I do not want to support the belief that too many of our young people already have that marijuana is a harmless drug. I know better. I had young people work for me in my supermarket who I knew were using marijuana.

And they used it for a period of years, folks. And they are not as sharp after years of marijuana use as they would have been. It dulls the brain. It holds back the growth. Brains are not mature until they are 25. And marijuana use has been proven to deter brain growth. A close friend of mine in Harrisburg who was a prominent State legislator was having dinner with me 25 years ago, and he was talking about Johnnie, who was attending Penn State, the brightest of three children.

And all of a sudden, Johnnie in his junior year in college was not doing well. He could not figure out why. He visited him two or three weekends in a month, 3 months in a row, to try to figure out what was wrong with Johnnie. In his senior year of high school, Johnnie had started using marijuana.

Johnnie lost his thrust for life. Johnnie lost the keen mind that God had given him. Marijuana stole him from the potential he had. Folks, if I thought the American public needed legal marijuana for pain and suffering, I would support it. We have more drugs than we need on the marketplace.

Marijuana destroys young people's chances to have good lives. I have close friends and even relatives who are living less of a life than they would have if they had not spent years abusing marijuana. Marijuana is a dangerous drug that is not adequately respected by the young people of this country because they have been seduced by leaders in this country advocating that it is a perfect, wonderful drug.

Mr. HINCHEY. I yield to the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Kucinich) for the purpose of making a unanimous consent request.

(Mr. KUCINICH asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)

Mr. KUCINICH. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding.

[Begin Insert]

Mr. Chairman, I stand to support the Hinchey/Rohrabacher Amendment, an amendment to end federal raids on medical marijuana patients and providers in states where medical marijuana is legal.

Despite marijuana's recognized therapeutic value, including a National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine report recommending its use in certain circumstances, federal law refuses to recognize its medicinal importance and safety.

This amendment does not change the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic. It does not legalize marijuana, or stop law enforcement officials from prosecuting individuals for recreational use of marijuana. It does not require that states adopt laws protecting the medicinal use of marijuana. It simply extends the protections already provided at the state level in ten states to the federal level. It ensures that critically ill patients can find relief from nausea and pain without worrying that the federal government will prosecute them.

The federal government should use its power to help terminally ill citizens, not arrest them. I strongly urge my colleagues to support this amendment.

[End Insert]

Mr. HINCHEY. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Frank).

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Chairman, I have never been an advocate for drug testing for Members of Congress, but hearing that marijuana use can dull the brain makes me think maybe this is something that we ought to be checking into.

I am always heightened in my support of an activity, an amendment, when those opposing will not argue it directly. We are not talking about 18-year-olds getting into methamphetamines. This is a very narrow amendment. It says, where a State has decided by its own democratic processes to legalize marijuana according to a doctor's prescription, we will not arrest people who try to do it federally.

[Time: 17:00]

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