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Drug Reformers Find Hope in Election Results

Join Together News Summary, November 17, 2006

Drug-policy reformers are hopeful that a medical-marijuana bill will pass a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, even if the measure has little chance in the Senate and faces a near-certain veto by President Bush.

Wired News reported Nov. 15 that Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, said medical-marijuana should at least get a hearing in the House; sweeping reforms, however, don't appear appreciably more likely to happen even with the Democrats taking over the House and Senate.

"For all the worries about 'San Francisco values' coming into the Congress, (drug reform) isn't one that's going to come to the forefront," said Patrick Murphy, a drug-policy expert at the University of San Francisco.

A medical-marijuana bill failed last year in the House on a 264-161 vote, but the addition of 28 (or more) new Democrats could improve the measure's chances of passing. In the Senate, advocates are hoping that socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders could champion the measure, perhaps getting it attached to a spending bill that Bush would be loathe to veto.

The new Congress also is expected to be less generous in funding the DEA and more circumspect about imposing harsh drug laws. Congress also could finally take action on the sentencing disparity between powdered and crack cocaine.