Monday, February 21, 2011

Congressman Tierney responds to Mr Epstein

Dear Mr. Epstein:

Thank you for your comments regarding marijuana policy. I appreciate the opportunity to respond.

As you probably know, a significant number of Americans support a doctor’s right to prescribe medications that may include controlled substances in cases that truly warrant such an approach. Initial reports have pointed to potential success in the use of such substances in the treatment of chronic pain, including marijuana for relief for cancer patients.

We continue to witness an important debate over the appropriate use of these products. However, the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that federal anti-drug law allows no “medical necessity” exception to the general prohibition on selling or growing marijuana.

Regardless, I remain sympathetic with the comments of one Massachusetts public health official who stated, “we shouldn’t enforce the drug laws by making ill patients suffer.” As our medical community is satisfied that such treatment is reasonable and useful, we should insist that our guidelines be established to ensure that the use of any current illegal drugs is only for truly medical purposes. It is my intention to continue to see that sufferers of chronic pain should have available to them all avenues of relief that pose no real danger to the public.

Regardless of my stance on medicinal uses of marijuana, I do not believe that a case can be made for the legalization of recreational marijuana use. All too often, marijuana use is the first step toward the use of harder drugs. I do not believe we should ease the way for young people in particular to begin drug-using experience.

You may be pleased to know that I am an original co-sponsor of H.R. 786, legislation that would restore financial aid eligibility to students who have served penalties for drug offenses. Section 485(r) of the Higher Education Act, which bars students with any drug-related offense on their record from ever receiving federal student aid, even after they have served their penalty and rehabilitated themselves, strikes me as patently unfair and counterproductive. As a nation we should be opening opportunities for education and training to reformed drug offenders, not closing them. Higher education represents a great determinant of success in modern America, and it is unconscionable to prevent anyone from the opportunity on the basis of past – and atoned for – mistakes.

Again, than you for contacting me. Please feel free to do so regarding any issue concerning you.

John F. Tierney
Member of Congress

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