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New Ga. congressman bucks GOP in vote on medical marijuana
Georgia Broun
Paul Broun, Georgia's newest congressman, in his first vote as a lawmaker broke with the Republican party and supported an amendment that would block the Justice Department from prosecuting medical marijuana cases. - photo by Associated Press
    WASHINGTON — Georgia’s newest congressman wasted no time in showing that he’s willing to buck his party’s leadership now that he’s made it to Washington.
    In his first vote as a lawmaker this week, Paul Broun, a Republican from Athens, broke with his party and supported an amendment that would block the Justice Department from prosecuting medical marijuana cases.
    Only 14 other Republicans supported the amendment, which failed 262-165.
    In a statement shortly afterward, his office said the vote ‘‘merits some explanation.’’ Broun, a doctor, said he believes states should be allowed to decide on their own whether to allow medical marijuana.
    ‘‘As I promised on the campaign trail, I would make the Constitution my primary guide on how I voted on all matters,’’ he said. The vote ‘‘was a constitutional issue pertaining to ’restraining’ the federal government from interfering with the right of states to establish public policy on matters not specifically addressed by the Constitution.’’
    All six other Georgia Republicans voted against the amendment, as did Democrat John Barrow. Democrat Jim Marshall did not vote, while Democrats Sanford Bishop, Hank Johnson, John Lewis and David Scott voted for it.
    A dozen states have passed laws allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. But the Justice Department has continued to enforce federal laws barring the drug, with the Drug Enforcement Administration raiding clinics across the country.
    Wednesday’s amendment, from Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., would prohibit the Justice Department from spending any money to prosecute people who use or distribute marijuana for medical purposes in states that have approved its use.
    Although Broun was alone among Georgia Republicans in voting for the amendment, at least one former Georgia Republican congressman has pushed for a similar cause.
    Bob Barr, a former prosecutor who represented an Atlanta area district before losing his seat in 2002, signed on earlier this year as a lobbyist for the Marijuana Policy Project. Barr, who recently left the GOP to become a Libertarian, was hired in part to persuade his former colleagues to adopt medical marijuana laws, the group said.

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