WASHINGTON, June 13 (Reuters) - Supporters of medical marijuana said on Monday they were gaining support in Congress but not enough to pass a measure expected in the U.S. House of Representatives this week that would prevent the federal government from prosecuting patients who use the drug.
Conservative California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher will team up with liberal New York Democratic Rep. Maurice Hinchey on a measure that would prohibit the U.S. Justice Department from going after patients in 10 states that allow the use of marijuana as prescribed by their doctors.
A vote could come as early as Tuesday when Rohrabacher and Hinchey attempt to attach their amendment to a bill to fund Justice Department activities next year.
Last year, the House defeated similar legislation by a vote of 268-148.
"There's a growing number of Republicans" favoring the legislation, said an aide to Rohrabacher, who asked not to be identified. He noted that four years ago, only Rohrabacher and one other Republican voted to allow medical marijuana use. "We're hoping to get about 30 by tomorrow," he added.
If the measure fails this week, as expected, supporters are expected to try again later this year and in 2006.