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House GOP Targets
Medical Marijuana States
Wed May 21, 6:28 PM ET
By LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - House Republicans are pressing for legislation
that would strip federal anti-drug money from local police in
states that have passed medical marijuana laws.
The overall legislation, which would keep the White House drug
policy office in business for another five years, would also
allow the office to run ads opposing medical marijuana
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy said
both provisions were initiated in Congress, but they clearly
reflect the Bush administration's strong desire to strictly
enforce marijuana laws. Federal law does not permit
legalization for medical use, although eight states allow it.
Tom Riley, spokesman for White House drug policy director John
Walters, said: "One of the duties of the drug czar is to
oppose efforts to legalize drugs. There's a concern in
Congress that marijuana is more harmful than most people
perceive. They want to make sure this agency keeps a focus on
Walters has traveled the country to speak out against easing
marijuana laws, but Riley said there were no issue-oriented
ads planned. However, he added, "We want as much flexibility
The House Government Reform Committee (news - web sites) was
expected to approve the legislation Thursday, with an
amendment prohibiting ads expressly advocating support or
defeat of a candidate or ballot question.
Groups opposed to strict criminal enforcement of marijuana
laws said more than $11 million could be eliminated from state
and local police budgets in "high-intensity" drug trafficking
areas. The money would go to federal law enforcement officers
on the grounds that local police would not be able to enforce
The House bill is sponsored by Rep. Mark Souder (news, bio,
voting record), R-Ind., chairman of the House Government
Reform criminal justice subcommittee. His staff director,
Chris Donesa, said the switch is needed because the federal
government would take on an added burden, but emphasized the
money would be used in the same high-intensity areas.
Donesa added that local and federal officers work together in
those areas anyway, so there would be little practical effect.
Steve Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project said his group was
especially concerned about the possibility of huge advertising
expenditures by the White House in an attempt to influence
"This leaves them free to run ads saying medicinal marijuana
is a lie and a ploy to legalize marijuana for all purposes,"
Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance called the potential
issue advertising "a shell game. It would take money from
taxpayers and most taxpayers will see through it."
Piper said the reallocation of money to federal officers would
move the focus from heroin and cocaine trafficking to
enforcement against medical marijuana patients.
The states with medical marijuana laws are Hawaii, Alaska,
Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Nevada and Maine.
Voters last November defeated a Nevada measure to legalize
possession of up to three ounces of marijuana; an Arizona
initiative that would have made pot possession equivalent to a
traffic violation; and a South Dakota initiative that would
have legalized hemp farms.