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Hinchey & House Colleagues Call For Independent Investigation Of U.S. Dept. of Justice Medical Marijuana Law Enforcement Activities

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


Hinchey & House Colleagues Call For Independent Investigation Of U.S. Dept. of Justice Medical Marijuana Law Enforcement Activities

Washington, D.C. - Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) this week led a group of three others House lawmakers in calling for a Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation of how much money the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) spent each year over the past decade to enforce medical marijuana laws. Hinchey has led the bipartisan effort in Congress to stop the DOJ from prosecuting patients who use medical marijuana in compliance with state law.

"We want to find out what the Department of Justice spends annually to prosecute medical marijuana patients so we can tell the American people exactly how much of their taxes is being wasted and diverted away from critical law enforcement activities, including homeland security activities," Hinchey said. "When all other medical options have failed, it is unconscionable that the federal government would deny patients the right to the one kind of medicine that helps alleviate their pain."

In June 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Gonzales v. Raich that the federal government has the right to prosecute sick people who use medical marijuana in compliance with state law. However, the Court's ruling did not strike down any state laws regarding medical marijuana. In the Court's majority opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens suggested that Congress could pass a new law that would prevent the prosecution of medical marijuana users.

In requesting the investigation, Hinchey and his colleagues wrote to GAO Comptroller David Walker, "Since the Raich decision, the DEA has continued to arrest, investigate, and prosecute medical marijuana growers and distributors in those states and elsewhere under federal law. According to the Congressional Research Service, in recent years more than 20 large-scale raids of cannabis buyers' clubs have occurred in California, and a handful of raids have taken place in other states. We believe that DOJ resources would be better spent enforcing other laws and we request that you determine the amount of funds spent for any DEA activity relating to medical marijuana including money spent on investigations, arrests, prosecutions, and advocacy."

For the past three years, Hinchey has offered an amendment on the House floor that would prohibit the DOJ from spending any money to prosecute patients who use medical marijuana in accordance with state law. Hinchey intends to offer the amendment again later this year. Currently, 11 states have laws allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes -- Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

Joining Hinchey in requesting the GAO investigation were Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX), Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA), and Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA). GAO, commonly called the investigative arm of Congress or the congressional watchdog, is independent and nonpartisan. It studies how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars and advises Congress and the heads of executive agencies on ways to make government more effective and responsive.

The full text of the letter from Hinchey and his colleagues requesting a GAO investigation follows:

March 1, 2006

Mr. David Walker
Comptroller
Government Accountability Office
Attn: Gloria Jarmon, Congressional Relations
441 G St., NW
Washington, DC 20548

Dear Comptroller Walker:

We hereby request that you investigate the amount of money spent each year over the past decade to enforce federal medical marijuana laws by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ).

Eleven states have passed laws making it legal for patients to use marijuana for medical purposes. The Supreme Court in Gonzalez v. Raich (2005) held that states could still pass and continue to maintain their own medical marijuana laws. However, the same decision also held that the DEA under the DOJ could still enforce the Controlled Substance Act and arrest marijuana patients and caregivers in the 11 states that have passed laws making medical marijuana legal. Since the Raich decision, the DEA has continued to arrest, investigate, and prosecute medical marijuana growers and distributors in those states and elsewhere under federal law. According to the Congressional Research Service, in recent years more than 20 large-scale raids of cannabis buyers' clubs have occurred in California, and a handful of raids have taken place in other states.

We believe that DOJ resources would be better spent enforcing other laws and we request that you determine the amount of funds spent for any DEA activity relating to medical marijuana including money spent on investigations, arrests, prosecutions, and advocacy. If you have any questions regarding this request, please contact Terra Sabag of Representative Hinchey's office at (202) 225-6335. Thank you for your assistance.

Sincerely,

Maurice Hinchey

Ron Paul

Sam Farr

Barney Frank

http://www.house.gov/apps/list/press/ny22_hinchey/morenews/030206medmarijuanagao.html

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