Barney Frank Introduces Bill to End Federal Marijuana Prohibition

by on June 28, 2011 · 24 comments

in Civil Rights, Popular

Editor: Although this article is 5 days old, it still flew past our doorstop. So we had to repost it. But wouldn’t it be great? Barney Frank and other Congress people are listening to reason.

The bill would essentially treat marijuana like alcohol on the federal level.

By Rob Kampia/ AlterNet / June 23, 2011

I just left a landmark news conference on Capitol Hill where — along with Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) and spokespersons from three other advocacy organizations — we announced the introduction of the first-ever bill to end marijuana prohibition on the federal level.

Congressman Barney Frank (D- MA)

This bill, the “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011,” is broader and bolder than the medical marijuana bills that Congressman Frank has introduced in every Congress since 1995. The bill introduced today would allow states to determine their own marijuana laws — not just medical marijuana laws — without federal interference.

The passage of today’s bill is our ultimate goal on the federal level. That is, when the bill ultimately passes, our work in Washington, D.C. will essentially be completed.

The bill would essentially treat marijuana like alcohol on the federal level: It would allow states to choose between prohibiting marijuana entirely, making marijuana medically available, decriminalizing the possession of marijuana, taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol, having “dry” and “wet” counties, regulating marijuana like tomatoes, and so forth.

The bill would also remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. Since Congress and President Nixon placed marijuana in the strictest of five schedules in 1970, marijuana has been in the same category as heroin, PCP, and LSD — drugs that supposedly have no therapeutic value and a high potential for abuse.

In fact, the bill would not just remove marijuana from Schedule I; it would remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances entirely. By doing so, the bill — once again — would treat marijuana like alcohol. (Alcohol and tobacco are the only two drugs not to be scheduled.)

If and when the bill passes, the federal government’s role would be reduced to monitoring the importation of marijuana from foreign countries, as well as prohibiting marijuana from being transported from a marijuana-legal state to a marijuana-prohibition state.

We expect that the bill will receive neither a hearing nor a vote in the 2011-2012 House, which is controlled by Republicans. Unlike in most state legislatures — which give all bills hearings and committee votes — the vast majority of bills in Congress die quiet deaths. This is partially because it’s physically impossible to find the time to give more than 10,000 bills hearings, and partially because committee chairs can kill bills they don’t like simply by doing nothing.

(By way of comparison, our medical marijuana bill failed to receive a hearing or a vote in the 2009-2010 House, which was controlled by mostly supportive Democrats. Indeed, we actually had the votes needed to pass the bill in the House crime subcommittee, which was chaired by a strong supporter!)

While today’s bill won’t pass anytime soon, its significance cannot be overstated: The bill serves as the ultimate organizing tool for the Marijuana Policy Project and other organizations.

For example, approximately 150 of the 435 members of the House support medical marijuana, but most of the 150 have been silent about or hostile to broader marijuana policy reform. Activists who live in the districts of these pro-medical marijuana House members will now have the opportunity to start a new conversation with these elected officials.

Also, if the federal debate shifts solidly from “medical marijuana” to “marijuana legalization” — a process that started during the Prop. 19 initiative campaign in California last year — then perhaps the passage of medical marijuana legislation on Capitol Hill will be seen as less radical, or even inevitable.

The federal bill also adds additional legitimacy to the initiatives that are sure to be on the ballots in California, Colorado, and possibly Washington state in November 2012. In past initiative campaigns that sought to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol, our opponents said that our initiatives were pointless, because what we were proposing was against federal law anyway. Now we can say, “Actually, there’s legislation in Congress that would remove federal obstructionism to what we’re trying to do here in Colorado. So let’s go ahead and pass the initiative, and then we’ll push Congress to pass the federal bill in early 2013.”

The “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011” has six original sponsors — five Democrats and one Republican. Our goal is to increase that number to 15 sponsors by the fall of 2012. In the meantime, my organization will be dedicating substantial resources to passing a ballot initiative in Colorado in November 2012; if that initiative and/or the initiatives in California and Washington state pass, then our nation will have a real debate about the federal bill in the weeks and months after Election Day.

Rob Kampia is executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, DC

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar AncientMedcine June 28, 2011 at 10:24 am

If we are going to treat cannabis like alcohol, how about we treat it like beer?

Basically, allow every adult access to it and to its unique healing components, cannabinoids.

Let Big Industry have a shot at making their Budweiser of Bud and the people will buy a lot of it. But also let small businesses (dispensaries, cafes and clubs) sell their higher-end product.

Re-legalize Hemp growing as well. Our country’s founders would be sickened by the fact that we have to buy our hemp from other countries. How much money do we spend each year importing hemp from other countries?

Let each state decide the specifics of how to implement quality control, but keep in mind cannabis’ amazing safety profile and don’t create laws out of irrational and unfounded fear, like Colorado is foolishly doing right now (forcing caregivers and dispensaries to close with outrageous, unprecedented, and unconstitutional regulations that are destroying patient access and destroying the fastest growing industry in Colorado, during the worst economic times since the Great Depression).

Let Big Pharma work on their novel, “pharmaceuticalized” preparations of cannabis, and most people will continue to buy Big Pharma’s versions of cannabis, over whole plant cannabis or “growing their own.” But end the obstruction of cannabis research, and let universities and research centers also grow their own so that vital research can once again flow.

Most importantly, let the people grow and share their own, for medicine and for recreation. Just like home-brewed beer. This is especially important for patients, because Big Pharma’s “pharmaceuticalized” versions of real, whole plant cannabis don’t work for a large number of patients.

If a small grower decides that they want to attempt to open a small enterprise (cafe, club, collective or dispensary), help them in this process and do not over-regulate such a safe substance or handicap new businesses with onerous regulation. That’s just a waste of time and money, and is a distinct manifestation of irrational “reefer madness.” But if there needs to be regulation, allow every state to decide the specifics, just like alcohol.

And create stiff laws against unlicensed sales/distribution to a minor (unless the minor is a legal medical cannabis patient).

Nobody is getting killed over home-brewed beer or Budweiser because they are relatively cheap (compared to CA medical-grade cannabis) and plentiful.

And of course, tax the sale of cannabis for general/recreational purposes, which would create significant revenue, but don‘t tax medical cannabis, as prescription medications should remain tax-exempt.

Allowing all types and all sizes of businesses a crack at creating cannabis and hemp medicines and products would create competition, jobs, and would help to “kick-start” this hurting economy.

The initial spike in use of cannabis would level off in a decade or so, when the whole “devil’s weed” appeal is gone. But as long as millions of people are going to use it, our real economy — not the black market — should benefit.

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avatar Don June 28, 2011 at 11:21 am

I’m 100% for legalization of marijuana; as is almost everyone I know including those that don’t use it. They, like myself, know many people who have used it or currently use it. None of them are criminals! I’m 55 and I’m an ex-marine. I’m very healthy except for minor back problems… I worked most of my life in computer electronics and programming. I’ve also used marijuana since age 15. I think this says a lot about the true dangers of marijuana! One of my best friends is a well respected school teacher who uses marijuana regularly and has never had any problems with it.

Thank you Rob Kampia for your efforts! Thank you very much!

I’m pretty pissed off at Republican Lamar Smith for refusing to allow this legislation to be considered however… Time for him to go away and stay there as far as I’m concerned. Texas doesn’t need him and neither does America!

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avatar ConservativeChristian June 28, 2011 at 11:37 am

Jesus said to do unto others as we would have them to do unto us. None of us would want our child thrown in jail with the sexual predators over marijuana. None of us would want to see an older family member’s home confiscated and sold by the police for growing a couple of marijuana plants for their aches and pains. It’s time to stop putting our own family members in jail over marijuana.

Email your Congressperson and Senators at http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml

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avatar Denny June 29, 2011 at 3:26 am

I am glad to see some religious people speak out against the War on Drugs, since it IS a freedom of Religion issue. But please don’t just think away this issue, call Mr. Smith’s office like I did and tell them that Communist Smith should stop the War on Drugs and move that cannabis (‘marijuana’ actually started as a racist term) bill forward, otherwise the innocent blood shed by this immoral war is on his hands. I, as a former Communist in the push for the War on Drugs, didn’t realize I was a Communist, since I never thought out thoroughly what Government and Law are meant for. Our Constitution is a bunch of negative liberties against the government to keep it in check so that they do not trample on our YHWH-given rights of freedom of Religion and freedom of speech. Mr Smith and other Communists of the War on Drugs make outlaws out of otherwise law-abiding people, all the while taking money from those with a vested interest in keeping hemp illegal. This is the definition of corruption — malfeasance in government — and what I consider Communism by a Communist. Those jack-booted officers bust down your door for politicians to the twisting of our Constitution by people of warped, twisted minds who think their self-righteous indignation against these illegal drugs somehow gives them the right to trample our YHWH-given rights in favor of their evil, blood-dripping policies of destruction and lawlessness that have wreaked havoc on every city in American and even all throughout the enire world. Thanks for listening, 777denny

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avatar Concerned Parent June 28, 2011 at 11:38 am
avatar Shane Finneran June 28, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Pretty good stuff, Barney Frank. But why treat marijuana like alcohol and tobacco? Alcohol and tobacco kill people!

It’ll be funny to watch all the Congressional Republicans who support “state’s rights” and “limited government” line up to oppose this bill. It’ll be painful to watch many of the Congressional Democrats do the same.

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avatar Frank Gormlie June 28, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Shane, when is your article on “Selling strawberries by the Roadside and other Tales” coming in? When ya comin’ back?

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avatar mr.rick June 28, 2011 at 12:59 pm

This is the way to get a left leaning “Tea Party” going. “The Green Tea Party”. It’s main focus(goal) should be to get pot totally legal in all fifty states and the territories by a certain date. Say, April of 2020. Then we could co-op the 420 logo and any other “Green” idea or policy that fits in with our larger agenda.It would give us a organizing focal point. Such as the old tea party focuses on taking America back from the non-whites who accidently got themselves elected in ’08. When things get boring or our vision gets cloudy, what would bring people out quicker than a good old fashioned “Smoke In”

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avatar Frank Gormlie June 28, 2011 at 1:22 pm

LOL

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avatar Jillian Galloway June 28, 2011 at 1:18 pm

On June 17, 1971, President Nixon told Congress that “if we cannot destroy the drug menace in America, then it will surely destroy us.” After forty years of trying to destroy “the drug menace in America” we still *haven’t* been able to destroy it and it still *hasn’t* destroyed us. Four decades is long enough to realize that on this important issue President Nixon was wrong! All actions taken as a result of his invalid and paranoid assumptions (e.g. the federal marijuana prohibition) should be ended immediately!

It makes no sense for taxpayers to fund the federal marijuana prohibition when it *doesn’t* prevent people from using marijuana and it *does* make criminals incredibly wealthy and incite the Mexican drug cartels to murder thousands of people every year.

We need legal adult marijuana sales in supermarkets, gas stations and pharmacies for exactly the same reason that we need legal alcohol and tobacco sales – to keep unscrupulous black-market criminals out of our neighborhoods and away from our children. Marijuana must be made legal to sell to adults everywhere that alcohol and tobacco are sold.

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avatar James June 28, 2011 at 3:46 pm

You know why that happened because they annouced back when nixon was president that THC and CBD in marijuana cures cancer – this what started the whole thing.
They dont want us to know the truth – that mmj cures many different illnesses.

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avatar RB June 30, 2011 at 5:45 am

The truth is you have no documentation for this opinion. Having done cancer research for 20 years, I can say absolutely marijuana does not cure cancer. No compound legal or illegal is being overlooked in the fight on cancer.

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avatar Tyler Finvold June 28, 2011 at 1:43 pm

I love how states since medical marijuana passed in 1996 in CA that on the federal level its technically illegal and is in the same class as dangerous drugs yet different states are enforcing the laws in different degrees, in California its a mere ticket for less than an OZ. Yet in Arizona I heard of a case of a sheriff apparently trying to push in court for a first time offender toward 10 years for a weed seed! It seems like different states and regions are enforcing laws to radically different degrees but on paper its technically all illegal on the federal level except for dispensaries yet to change what it says on “paper” is whats in question is rather funny, under the table antics and wishy washy uneven enforcement has been going on for ages yet this would just say that its happening on paper? lol

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avatar AncientMedicine June 28, 2011 at 5:59 pm

After decades of unconscionable, blatant lies about cannabis’ medical efficacy from the FEDS, sixteen states — and Washington D.C. — have decided to exercise their state prerogative and legalize the medicinal use of cannabis. Thanks to the 10th Amendment, issues not enumerated in the U.S. Constitution — like medical issues — are left for the states to decide. This is crystal-clear.

And the 10th Amendment is a fundamental part of the U.S. Constitution and a fundamental part of “federal supremacy.” which cannot be ignored or side-stepped when discussing Federal Supremacy.

And regarding the Supreme Court’s far-overreaching Raich v. Gonzales decision, Justice Clarence Thomas nailed why this decision is so wrong and so dangerous:

“If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything–and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers… Here, Congress has encroached on States’ traditional police powers to define the criminal law and to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens.”

Justice Clarence Thomas, J., dissenting — SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES — No. 03—1454, ALBERTO R. GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL, et al., PETITIONERS v. ANGEL McCLARY RAICH et al.

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avatar Mike June 28, 2011 at 3:18 pm

There’s a good chance this bill will sit in subcommittee, stalled, unless you get in touch with your representatives and let them know you support it. Click here to write your legislators today! It’s super easy, and takes about ten seconds!

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avatar James June 28, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Everyone needs to know that Medical Marijauna works and has cured cancer in canada-
watch the video “run from the cure” on youtube. It tells you a different story – This medicine works better for me the pharmaceutical drugs – I talked to patients in my Dr office and there was and older gentalmen there my guess he was about 85 years of age and is suffering major medical contions and was spending over $20K a month on medicine until he tride medical marijuana – and he has cutt way back on the bad medication and feels a lot better – and saving money for himself and his insurance company – The media and our government has lied to us again – whats new!

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avatar T June 28, 2011 at 11:10 pm

The problem is that the congress will never let this pass because it would mean taking too much money away from the pharmaceutical companies that make billions and billions of dollars off millions of people of all ages who use prescription drugs. Mary Jane would essentially remove the need for many of the medications prescribed thousands of times a day in this country. The over paid drug lobbyists have a bigger ear than the legalize marijuana activists do, and that’s the sad part. It is SUCH an uphill struggle, to legalize something that never should have been made illegal in the first place. Marijuana is no more a ‘gateway drug,’ as it’s been labeled, to ‘hard drugs’ than cigarettes are a gateway to smoking cigars. Just because you enjoy one, does not mean you have any intention or curiosity to try the other.
Alcohol causes tens of thousands of accidents every year, and yet, it is available at almost every street corner gas station in America.
If MJ was regulated, taxed, and limited to the alcohol consumption laws, that would just be common sense, now wouldn’t it? But then again, our gov’t is not known for it’s common sense.

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avatar Sunshine June 28, 2011 at 11:54 pm

comparing alcohol & tobacco to cannabis is like comparing atom bombs to avocados. one is potentially lethal and the other is a tasty plant. For goodness sake, no one ever died from eating avocados or using cannabis for that matter. That being said …

prohibition didn’t work with alcohol and it was finally abolished (years of legal mob-mentality terror notwithstanding) because the people stood up and demanded the right to use it. the time has come for “those that oppose” to back off and allow cannabis and hemp (and those that choose to utilize them) the freedom they deserve.

now, about those avocados … mmmmmmm … guacamol’e

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avatar danny morales July 1, 2011 at 1:44 am

Holy Guacamole Sunshine! Appears you have a case of the munchies 8-p

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avatar AncientMedicine June 29, 2011 at 10:21 am

ON SATIVEX

While Sativex® — the oromucosal (mouth) spray developed by the UK company GW Pharmaceuticals for multiple sclerosis patients and other conditions — is made with natural (not synthetic) cannabis extracts, and is more effective than Marinol® and Nabilone®, Sativex® also has distinct disadvantages and major obstacles to its use.

First. Sativex® has not yet been approved by the FDA, and is not available in the United States, other than for use in FDA approved clinical trials. So, if a patient wanted to try Sativex®, they would most likely need to move to the UK, Canada, or Spain, three countries where Sativex® has been approved for medical use, to some extent.

According to Health Canada’s fact sheet, Sativex® is a cannabis-based medicine containing Tetranabinex® and Nabidiolex® extracts of chemically and genetically characterized Cannabis sativa L. plants. The principal active components are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

Sativex® is basically a descendant of the cannabis tinctures that were made in the U.S. by Big Pharma, like Merck, Eli Lilly and ParkeDavis — from the mid-1800s until 1942 — when the misguided and racially-charged “Marihuana Act of 1937” was rammed through Congress and led to cannabis‘s illegitimate removal from the U.S. Pharmacopeia, OVER strong objections from the American Medical Association submitted on record to Congress.

Second. Sativex® — if the FDA ever approves it — will be very expensive, especially compared to natural cannabis, which could be grown for much less.

Third. While Sativex® is completely real cannabis-based, it comes in just ONE FORMULA, which may not be the right formula for many patients, as it is clear that different strains of cannabis –with different ratios of cannabinoids, terpenoids (oils) and flavonoids (phenols) — work better for different patients and for different clinical conditions.

Fourth. Sativex® has quite a few nasty side effects that might prevent if from being medically beneficial for many patients, including abdominal pain; constipation; cough; diarrhea; dizziness; dry mouth; flushing; forgetfulness; poor concentration; headache; heartburn; increased appetite; mood changes; nausea; sore throat; soreness or stinging sensation in mouth (Sativex® causes irritations in the mouth in 20 – 25% patients in clinical trials, according to Health Canada); excessive thirst; tiredness; unusual taste in the mouth; vomiting; and weakness.

Fifth, Sativex® is also contraindicated for patients with known or suspected allergies to cannabinoids, propylene glycol, ethanol or peppermint oil, which will rule out many patients.

However, the natural, cannabis-based Sativex clearly illustrates that natural, whole plant cannabis is indeed medicine, contrary to the old, worn-out, and reckless lies spread by our government and ill-informed media. But the more the FEDS push Marinol®, Nabilone®, and especially the natural Sativex®, the more they illustrate how ridiculous their anti-medicinal cannabis position really is.

Of course cannabis should be available in its most natural form and safest form, especially considering no cannabis-inspired medicines have yet to match real cannabis’s healing effects.

If you were to compare cannabis to an orange, Sativex® would be like orange juice.

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avatar AncientMedicine June 29, 2011 at 10:43 am

Given cannabis cannot kill from toxicity, I agree 100 percent that it is not in the same category as alcohol or cigarettes, which kill hundreds of thousands of people each year.

However, the “greedy revenuers,” “the nannies, ” and the ignorant will try to regulate cannabis to death (“by a thousand cuts”) no matter what the facts are; so, I am proposing that it specifically be treated similarly to beer, which is treated and regulated quite differently and more leniently than hard liquor. And people can home-brew beer and share it with their neighbors without being considered “moonshiners,” which is why the Beer Model and not the general Alcohol Model is more appropriate.

But in an ideal world — for instance, a world where people aren’t paid to distort cannabis’ science and medical fact — cannabis would be treated just like any other medicinal herb you can grow in your garden.

The Big Cannabis Lie still has many politicians blinded — and many are still faking fear, because they haven’t kept up with the public support or they are paid off by big industry — but most of the people realize, to some extent, that they’ve been lied to regarding cannabis. And national polls continue to illustrate that 70-80 percent of Americans support the medicinal use of doctor-recommended or doctor-prescribed cannabis.

Check out this ABC News/Washington Post national poll.

81 Percent of Americans Support Legalizing Cannabis for Medical Use:

http://abcnews.go.com/images/PollingUnit/1100a3MedicalMarijuana.pdf

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avatar tj June 30, 2011 at 5:33 am

Good for Barney.

That ought to make him popular with the big Drug & Alcohol pushers/ lobby …

ps – Obama pic is too funny.

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avatar OB Mercy July 8, 2011 at 8:47 pm

In the words of Fox Mulder, “I want to believe.” I have been hearing all of this for over 4o yrs. I have signed every petition, written every damn politician there is, and have physically demonstrated against the bans……and other than than the dispensaries operating on a state by state level and having my medical cert…..nothing has really changed. Sigh….I think I’ll go smoke a bowl.

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avatar Allen Lewis July 12, 2011 at 7:15 pm

this story should be revisited. If you go to npr.org and read the latest view our government has on Medical Marijuana and what this idiot John Walters, director of the Office of Drug Control Policy during the Bush administration, has to say ( he told NPR the widespread use of marijuana is no laughing matter, Many of these markets are making millions of dollars, they’re not nonprofits as they’ve been declared in other places, Walters said, They’re getting the marijuana from some of the same criminal mafias in Mexico that are killing people daily.). and also The Obama administration, which recently lashed out against the drug in three distinct ways. First, on Monday, the White House released its National Drug Control Strategy, reporting that use of marijuana is the highest it’s been in eight years, First, on Monday, the White House released its National Drug Control Strategy, reporting that use of marijuana is the highest it’s been in eight years, Finally, the Justice Department has taken a tough line on marijuana too. Lets face it we live in a very corrupt and controlling country. And don’t tell me there is separation between church and state. I just tried to post this on npr.org and they kicked me off, I wonder who pays them.

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