|Graphic: Drug Policy Alliance|
Co-sponsors of the bill include Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.)
The legislation would limit the federal government's role in marijuana enforcement to cross-border or interstate smuggling, allowing people to legally grow, use or sell marijuana in states where it is legal.
Leading critics of the war on marijuana will explain the legislation's significance for state and national marijuana policy at a national press teleconference on Thursday.
A group of police and judges who fought on the front lines of the failed War On Drugs is announcing its support for the legislation, which is called the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011.
"Clearly the 'war on drugs' has failed, and nowhere is that more clear than with respect to marijuana," said Neill Franklin, a former Baltimore narcotics cop and executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). "It baffles me that we arrest nearly 800,000 people on marijuana charges in this country each and every year at taxpayer expense when we could instead be taking in new tax revenue from legal and regulated marijuana sales.
"Making marijuana illegal hasn't prevented anyone from using it, but it has created a huge funding source that funnels billions of dollars in tax-free profits to violent drug cartels and gangs," Franklin said. "More and more cops now agree: Legalizing marijuana will improve public safety."
|Photo: Jimmy Carter Library & Museum|
|Former President Jimmy Carter: "Maybe the increased tax burden on wealthy citizens necessary to pay for the war on drugs will help bring about a reform of America's drug policies"|
Last week marked the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon's declaring war on marijuana and other drugs. In an op-ed in the New York Times last week, timed for the 40th anniversary, former President Jimmy Carter called for reforming marijuana laws.
The legislation also comes on the heels of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which released a report on June 2 calling for a major paradigm shift in how our society deals with drugs, including calling for legal regulation of marijuana. The report sent a jolt around the world, generating thousands of international media stories.
The Commission is comprised of international dignitaries including Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations; Richard Branson, entrepreneur, founder of the Virgin Group; and the former presidents of Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Switzerland. Representing the United States on the Commission are George P. Shultz, Paul Volcker and John Whitehead.
More than 46 percent of Californians voted last year to legalize marijuana in their state, and voters in Colorado, Washington and possibly other states are expected to vote on the issue next year. In the past year, five state legislatures have considered legalizing marijuana, including California, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington state.
Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use, but the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) continues to arrest people under federal law, and U.S. Attorneys have in recent months sent threatening letters to state policymakers in an apparent attempt to meddle in state decision-making.
Rep. Frank's legislation would end state/federal conflicts over marijuana policy, reprioritize federal resources, and provide more room for states to do what is best for their own citizens, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).
You can write to your Representatives by using this handy form; just enter your state and zip code, and mention that you support the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011: https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml
Or, if you'd prefer, you can use MPP's pre-written letter, which will automatically go to your representative when you fill out the form, by clicking here.
What: Tele-Press Conference on the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011
When: Thursday, June 23, 2 p.m. EST/11 a.m. PST
Call-In Info: 1-800-311-9404; Passcode: Marijuana
• Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.)
• Rob Kampia, executive director of Marijuana Policy Project (MPP)
• Aaron Houston, executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP)
• Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)
• Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA)