The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

The Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


The federal government’s continuing prosecution of medical marijuana patients undermines federalism and fiscal restraint.  For the fourth year in a row, the House will vote on an amendment sponsored by Reps. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.).  The amendment would prohibit the federal government from arresting users of medical marijuana in states where it has been deemed legal.  The amendment does not prevent the Justice Department from prosecuting individuals using marijuana for a recreational purpose or individuals using marijuana for medicinal purposes in states where it is still considered illegal.    

A number of studies show that marijuana helps to alleviate the painful and uncomfortable effects of many terminal illnesses.  Eleven states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation to allow the use of marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation.  Federal drug laws do not address the issue of medical marijuana, so states have the power create and enforce these laws within their jurisdiction. 

Enormous amounts of taxpayer dollars, primarily in the form of law enforcement, continue to be thrown at this issue.  In 2001, shortly after 9/11, the Drug Enforcement Administration organized and carried out a raid on a Los Angeles hospice that supplied marijuana to 1,000 patients with painful and terminal illnesses.  As America faced an unprecedented terrorist threat, the DEA continued to waste vital resources on the arrest of medical marijuana patients. 

Numerous legal battles regarding the raids led in May 2005 to the Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision in Ashcroft vs. Raisch to allow federal authorities to prosecute sick people who smoke marijuana under doctors’ orders.  

The Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, which will be proposed to the Science, State, Justice, Commerce, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2007, is scheduled to be considered on the House floor in July.  If passed, this amendment will free up federal dollars for more important priorities and will help to restore a proper division of power between the federal and state governments.

-- Katherine Walkenhorst

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