Marijuana bill officially introduced to Congress by Ron Paul, Barney Frank
Marijuana laws should be set at the state, not federal, level, Reps. Ron Paul and Barney Frank argued in a bill they introduced Thursday.
The goal of the bill, HR 2306, is not to legalize marijuana but to remove it from the list of federally controlled substances while allowing states to decide how they will regulate it.
"I do not advocate urging people to smoke marijuana. Neither do I urge them to drink alcoholic beverages or smoke tobacco," said Frank (D-Mass.). "But in none of these cases do I think prohibition enforced by criminal sanctions is good public policy.
"Criminally prosecuting adults for making the choice to smoke marijuana is a waste of law enforcement resources and an intrusion on personal freedom," he added.
Frank admitted in a conference call Thursday that he didn't think the bill had a chance of passing, but according to Reason's Hit & Run blog, the congressman was "particularly struck by the hypocrisy of public officials who will themselves talk about smoking marijuana, wink at it, and then make it criminal for other people," which leads to "a very discriminatory pattern of enforcement."
The bill appears doomed on arrival, according to the Associated Press, which reported that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith said his panel, which the proposed law is required to venture through, would not even consider it.
"Marijuana use and distribution is prohibited under federal law because it has a high potential for abuse and does not have an accepted medical use in the U.S.," said Smith, who like Paul is a Texas Republican. "The Food and Drug Administration has not approved smoked marijuana for any condition or disease."
Smith cited the theory that pot is a gateway drug, and then added the curious belief that legalizing weed would increase the coffers of drug lords.
"Decriminalizing marijuana will only lead to millions more Americans becoming addicted to drugs and greater profits for drug cartels who fund violence along the U.S.-Mexico border. Allowing states to determine their own marijuana policy flies in the face of Supreme Court precedent," Smith said.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy echoed some of Smith's fears and said decriminalizing pot was a nonstarter.
"Our concern with marijuana is not borne out of any culture war or drug war mentality, but out of what the science tells us about the drug’s effects. The facts are that marijuana potency has tripled in the past 20 years and teens are using the drug at earlier ages," the office said in a statement to The Times.
"The earlier a person begins to use drugs, the more likely they are to progress to more serious abuse and addiction -– reflecting the harmful, long-lasting effects drugs can have on the developing brain. Legalization remains a nonstarter in the Obama administration because research shows that marijuana use is associated with voluntary treatment admissions, fatal drugged driving accidents and emergency room admissions," the statement said.
-- Tony Pierce
Photo: A bud tender holds a marijuana bud called Blue Goo before weighing it for a customer at Green Oasis, a medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles. Credit: Genaro Molina /Los Angeles Times