There was a time, not very long ago, when no politician in his or her right mind would admit to using marijuana as a teenager. Those days have passed. If you need proof, look no further than Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican and the first member of Congress to acknowledge using medical cannabis while in office.
Rohrabacher was on Capitol Hill in June, talking to a group of marijuana activists, when he explained that he uses cannabis to treat chronic pain from arthritis. He said he was a dedicated surfer for 30 years until shoulder pain forced him to stop. The arthritis also interfered with his sleep, he told the group.
The 13-term lawmaker, whose district encompasses Orange County, said he first used a marijuana-infused topical rub after stopping by a Southern California cannabis expo.
“I went to one of these hempfests or something like that . . . in San Bernardino,” he said. “This guy was showing me the medical things and all that, and he says, ‘You should try this. And it’s a candle, and you light the candle, and the wax is in there and it melts down, and then you rub it on whatever you’ve got problems with.'”
Marijuana topicals provided much-needed relief
Rohrabacher said he tried the topical for the first time this spring, and he described it as “the first time in a year and a half that I had a decent night’s sleep because the arthritis pain is gone.”
Rohrabacher’s speech drew cheers from the friendly audience on Capitol Hill.
He’s not a typical pro-cannabis lawmaker. A rock-ribbed conservative, Rohrabacher represents some of the most Republican turf in California.
But he has a decidedly more moderate bent when it comes to medical marijuana. He was one of the two chief sponsors of a 2014 bill that bars the Department of Justice from cracking down on medicinal pot in states that allow it under their laws (the drug is prohibited for any use under federal law).
“Now don’t tell anybody I broke the law,” he said after acknowledging his pot use. “They’ll bust down my door and take whatever’s inside and use it as evidence against me, whatever it is. The bottom line is, there’s definitely cannabis in there, and it makes sure that I can sleep now.”
Important milestone for cannabis reform
Rohrabacher is a longtime advocate for medical marijuana, but this was the first time he has talked about using it, his spokesman told The Huffington Post. The speech also marked an important moment for cannabis reform in Congress, said Tom Angell, founder of the Marijuana Majority, as no national lawmaker has ever admitted to using medical marijuana while in office.
“Putting a face on the people who use marijuana will help immensely in the battle to end criminalization and other forms of harmful discrimination,” he said. “It’s now going to be much harder for members of Congress, particularly those in the GOP caucus, to vote against medical marijuana, since they now know that one of their friends and colleagues is directly benefiting from it.”
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