Justice

A Member of Congress Made a Huge Admission About Marijuana

May 24th 2016

By:
Kyle Jaeger

Even as the legalization movement has pushed marijuana users out of the cannabis closet in ever growing numbers, federal lawmakers have tended to keep their personal use out of the conversation.

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That's why it was a big deal when U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) admitted to using a cannabis product to relieve his arthritis pain on Tuesday. Activist Russ Belville first reported on his Cannabis Radio News program that Rohrabacher was one of five congressmen who spoke at conference for reform advocates in Washington D.C. hosted by The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

"I haven’t been able to go surfing for a year-and-a-half and I’ve been in severe pain," Rohrabacher said. But then he visited a booth at a marijuana event in San Bernardino, California, last month, where a vendor recommended a topical cannabis product designed to help patients manage pain.

"I tried it about two weeks ago, and it’s the first time in a year-and-a-half that I’ve had a decent night’s sleep, because the arthritis pain was gone," the congressman said.

Rohrabacher, a Republican lawmaker who has supported efforts to stop the federal government from enforcing marijuana laws in state's where it's legal, "became the first sitting member of Congress in recent history to admit to using marijuana while in office," Marijuana.com reports.

Rohrabacher (kind of) joked:

"Now don’t tell anybody I broke the law. [Federal law enforcement officials will] bust down my door and, you know, and take whatever’s inside and use it for evidence against me. The bottom line is that there’s definitely cannabis in there, and it makes sure that I can sleep now."

While a handful of U.S. Senators, House representatives, and even sitting presidents have admitted to using marijuana in their youth, few federal lawmakers have gone so far as to admit to use while still serving in office. Because marijuana is still federally illegal, the subject remains taboo among American politicians, even as public support for legalization continues to rise.

Former President Bill Clinton famously denied inhaling marijuana as a college student.

And while President Obama conceded that he did, in fact, inhale cannabis in his youth, he emphasized that it was "a mistake" he made "as a young man." That tends to be as far as most lawmakers are willing to go — admitting to past use with a sense of regret.

"As with the ongoing battle for full equality for LGBT people, putting a face on the people who use marijuana will help immensely in the battle to end criminalization and other forms of harmful discrimination," Marijuana Majority founder Tom Angell told ATTN:. "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."

RELATED: Here's Where Your Representatives Stand on Marijuana