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Mr. HINCHEY. I rise today in strong support of this amendment, and I thank, particularly, my friend from California for offering it with me and for what he said about it just a few minutes ago very clearly.
This amendment is very simple. It directs the Federal Government to respect the laws enacted by States that have legalized marijuana for medical use.
The Constitution of the United States is very clear. It authorizes States' rights in every other area that is not specifically designated to the Federal Government. Currently, 16 States and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, benefiting over 730,000 patients nationwide. In addition, the State of Connecticut will soon sign a similar bill into law.
President Obama has made it clear that the Justice Department should not prioritize medical marijuana arrests, especially when there are so many other more significant issues that need attention. Unfortunately, some in the DEA clearly didn't get the memo. That's why we're here today.
According to Americans for Safe Access, since October 2009, the Justice Department has carried out an estimated 170 raids of medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation centers in nine States that have legalized medical marijuana. Without a doubt, these raids are clearly a waste of taxpayer dollars, but they are also fundamentally wrong.
Medical marijuana is proven to reduce pain and increase quality of life for patients suffering from debilitating diseases, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, and HIV/AIDS. Medical marijuana is a safe and effective treatment for many of the symptoms that accompany these diseases. However, the DEA wants to deny patients medicine that can dramatically improve their lives or reduce their suffering. This is wrong, and it needs to stop.
This amendment does not do anything to advocate any violations of the law. It just says those States that have approved medical marijuana ought to be able to determine how to take care of their own people effectively.
This amendment does not affect States that have not approved medical marijuana. It does not require or encourage other States to adopt medical marijuana laws.
This amendment does not stop law enforcement officials from prosecuting the illegal use of marijuana.
This amendment does not encourage drug use in children. Studies actually suggest that teen use of marijuana has declined in States that have passed medical marijuana laws. That, in and of itself, is very interesting and important.
The purpose of this amendment is to allow these 16 States to give relief to people suffering from horrific diseases without fearing Federal intervention or prosecution.
I urge Members to support this amendment and support States' rights and compassion. Doctors in these 16 States know what is best for their patients. The DEA should not stand in the way of these doctors and their patients.
All of this is serious for the health and safety of many, many people in these 16 States. And, in fact, other States are coming into this as well. This is something that really needs to be enacted because it is safe and secure and reasonable.
I yield back the balance of my time.
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