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Medical Pot Advocates Take Aim at Lawmaker

Congress: Protesters call Rogan's vote against marijuana purely political. Glendale Republican says he still supports drug's use for terminally ill.

March 31, 1998|HUGO MARTIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Three years after supporting state legislation to legalize the medical use of marijuana, Rep. James E. Rogan has come under attack by medical marijuana advocates for backing a congressional resolution opposing any use of the drug.

Several dozen medical marijuana advocates protested Monday at Rogan's Pasadena office and at his headquarters in Washington, D.C., where two protesters were arrested after one ate marijuana leaves outside Rogan's office.

The protesters targeted Rogan (R-Glendale) because they say he has reversed his position since being elected to Congress.

"This is a great example of hypocrisy," said Jim Rosenfield, organizer of the protest.

Despite voting for a resolution that opposes legalizing marijuana for medicinal uses, Rogan said he has not changed his position and continues to support the use of marijuana for terminally ill patients.

Rogan--a former prosecutor and municipal court judge--noted that the resolution that he and members of the House Judiciary Committee supported was a nonbinding motion, expressing the panel's opinion. It was not enforceable legislation, he said.

To clarify his position, Rogan said he publicly stated his support for a limited use of marijuana before voting to support the resolution.

He conceded that he could have voted against the resolution or abstain because he did not agree with it entirely, but he said he felt it was enough to publicly express his opinion.

"I didn't want to vote against a resolution that I agreed with 99%," he said.

The issue is a personal one for Rogan, whose cousin suffered from cancer and used marijuana to counter the effects of chemotherapy for several years. He later died.

In 1995, when Rogan was a top-ranking Republican in the Assembly, he broke from his party to provide a key vote in support of a bill to legalize the medical use of marijuana.

The bill by Assemblyman John Vasconcellos, a Santa Clara Democrat, allowed people to possess and grow marijuana for themselves or immediate family members with a written prescription from a doctor.

The bill was later vetoed by Gov. Pete Wilson.

Rogan, elected to Congress to represent parts of Pasadena, Glendale and Burbank in 1996, voted along with other Republican members of the Judiciary Committee to support a resolution that says the "House of Representatives is unequivocally opposed to legalizing marijuana for medical use and urges the defeat of state initiatives which would seek to legalize marijuana for medicinal use."

The entire Congress is expected to consider the resolution next month.

Rosenfield called Rogan's vote for the resolution a "purely political stand" and accused Rogan of reversing his position on marijuana to keep with his party's position.

"For him to sign off on a bill that says marijuana has no medical use, that doesn't make sense to me," Rosenfield said.

The 30 or so protesters in Pasadena included members of the Cannabis Freedom Fund, a North Hollywood-based drug policy group. The protesters in Washington included members of the Marijuana Policy Project, a political advocacy group based in Washington.

At the Washington protest, Cheryl Miller, 51, of Silverton, N.J., and her husband, Jim, were arrested on possession of marijuana after Jim Miller fed his wife marijuana leaves in front of Rogan's office.

Cheryl Miller has suffered from multiple sclerosis since 1971. Her husband fed her the leaves because she cannot move her arms. Both were later released on their own recognizance.

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