House lawmakers introduced legislation in Congress today to end the federal criminalization of the personal use of marijuana.
The bipartisan measure – 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.’
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.”
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.