Pelosi: Use of Medicinal Marijuana Should Be Left to States

Jun 15, 2005
Press Release

Pelosi: Use of Medicinal Marijuana Should Be Left to States

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Contact: Brendan Daly/Jennifer Crider, 202-226-7616

Washington, D.C. - House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke today on the House floor in favor of an amendment offered by Congressmen Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) that would permit the use of medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. Below are her remarks:

"Mr. Speaker, this amendment is especially timely, coming on the heels of the Supreme Court decision last week in Gonzales v. Raich. The Court's decision makes clear that federal regulatory and statutory changes are needed, and I strongly support Mr. Frank's proposed legislation that would change federal law to permit medical marijuana, pursuant to state law.

"My colleagues, make sure you know that what we are talking about here is in regard to states passing their own laws or initiatives. What would happen with this initiative, which is needed because we don't have a federal law to respect states rights specifically in terms of medicinal marijuana, is necessary because it would prohibit the Justice Department from spending any funds to undermine state medical marijuana laws. It would leave to the discretion of the states how they would alleviate suffering of their citizens. This is a states' rights issue.

"I've been a long-standing advocate for allowing states to make medical marijuana available to patients under a doctor's recommendation to alleviate painful suffering. A doctor's prescription is needed for a substance that is not otherwise legal. Doctors write prescriptions every day for that purpose, and they should be able to do so if their states allow it, in the case of medical marijuana.

"In my district of San Francisco, we have lost more than 20,000 people to AIDS over the last two decades, and I have seen firsthand the suffering that accompanies this dreadful disease. Medical marijuana alleviates some of the most debilitating symptoms of AIDS, including pain, wasting syndrome, and nausea. This is not confined to AIDS, but also cancer and other examples that our colleagues will point out. This is the compassionate way to go.

"The previous speaker said he knows of no scientific or medical institution that has said anything positive about this, and I beg to differ.

"This fact has been supported by science. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine issued a report that had been commissioned by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The study found that medical marijuana 'would be advantageous' in the treatment of some diseases, and is 'potentially effective' in treating pain. Medical journals and other recent articles attest to the fact that active components in medical marijuana inhibit pain.

"Other proven medicinal uses of marijuana include improving the quality of life for patients with cancer, multiple sclerosis, and other severe medical conditions.

"That is why many medical associations support legal access to medical marijuana, again if the state allows it with a doctor's permission, including the American Academy of HIV Medicine, American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Nurses Association, the American Public Health Association, and the AIDS Action Council.

"In addition, more than 10 states, including my home state of California, have adopted medical marijuana laws since 1996. Most of these laws were approved by a vote of the people. Numerous polls indicate that three-fourths of Americans support the right of patients to use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation.

"A recent AARP Poll shows that 72 percent of America's seniors support the use of medicinal marijuana with a doctor's prescription in the states which it is allowed.

"Religious denominations also support legal access to medical marijuana, including the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the National Council of Churches, the National Progressive Baptist Convention, the Presbyterian Church, the Union for Reform Judaism, the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and the United Methodist Church.

"We must not make criminals of seriously ill people. It is not a crime to be ill and to need to have access to pain relief. People who seek this therapy should be able to receive it. It is long past time for us to base our policies on science, not misguided politics.

"The Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment affects the health and well-being of so many Americans, and I urge my colleagues to vote for it."