United States: Members Of Congress Introduce First Federal Measure Since 1937 To Legalize The Adult Use Of Marijuana
By Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director
House lawmakers introduced legislation in Congress today to end the federal criminalization of the personal use of marijuana.
The bipartisan measure, HR 2306 – entitled the 'Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011' and sponsored by Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank and Texas Republican Ron Paul along with Reps. Cohen (D-TN), Conyers (D-MI), Polis (D-CO), and Lee (D-CA) – prohibits the federal government from prosecuting adults who use or possess marijuana by removing the plant and its primary psychoactive constituent, THC, from the five schedules of the United States Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Under present law, all varieties of the marijuana plant are defined as illicit Schedule I controlled substances, defined as possessing 'a high potential for abuse,’ and ‘no currently accepted medical use in treatment.'
Said Rep. Frank, "Criminally prosecuting adults for making the choice to smoke marijuana is a waste of law enforcement resources and an intrusion on personal freedom. I do not advocate urging people to smoke marijuana, neither do I urge them to drink alcoholic beverages or smoke tobacco, but in none of these cases do I think prohibition enforced by criminal sanctions is good public policy."
The 'Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act' seeks to federally deregulate the personal possession and use of marijuana by adults. It marks the first time that members of Congress have introduced legislation to eliminate the federal criminalization of marijuana since the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.
Language in this Act mimics changes enacted by Congress to repeal the federal prohibition of alcohol. Passage of this measure would remove the existing conflict between federal law and the laws of those sixteen states that allow for the limited use of marijuana under a physicians’ supervision. It would also allow state governments that wish to fully legalize and regulate the responsible use, possession, production, and intrastate distribution of marijuana for all adults to be free to do so without federal interference. (To date, lawmakers in six states have introduced legislation to legalize and regulate the adult use of cannabis, and separate statewide initiative measures are planned for 2012 in several additional states.)
Speaking in support of the measure, NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said, "The federal criminalization of marijuana has failed to reduce the public’s demand or access to cannabis, and it has imposed enormous fiscal and human costs upon the American people. It is time to end this failed public policy and to provide state governments with the freedom to enact alternative strategies — such as medicalization, decriminalization, and/or legalization — without running afoul of the federal law or the whims of the Department of Justice."
You can read the full text of Allen’s remarks from today’s press conference, which is being reported today by major news outlets nationwide, here.
NORML, along with representatives from the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), and the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), worked closely with members of Congress in drafting the measure.
Additional information regarding this measure is available from NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.
Below is video of co-sponsor Steven Cohen (D-TN) speaking on the House floor today in favor of HR 2306: Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011.